At 6:17 a.m. on March 1, 2019, a 2018 Tesla Model 3 passenger car was southbound in the right lane of the 14000 block of US Highway 441 (US 441), also known as State Road 7, in Delray Beach, Palm Beach County, Florida, when it struck a 2019 International truck-tractor in combination with a semitrailer. The combination vehicle (truck), operated by FirstFleet, Inc., was traveling east on a private driveway/access road for the Pero Family Farms agricultural facility (address: 14095 US 441) and was attempting to cross the southbound lanes of US 441 and turn left into the northbound lanes. As the truck approached the stop sign on the right side of the driveway at the intersection with US 441, it slowed but did not come to a full stop before beginning to cross the southbound lanes of the highway. The car driver, traveling at a recorded speed of 69 mph, did not apply the brakes or take any other evasive action to avoid the truck, which was crossing in front of him at about 11 mph.
The car hit the left side of the semitrailer just aft of the trailer’s midpoint. The roof of the car was sheared off as the vehicle underrode the semitrailer and continued south. Postcrash, the car coasted to a stop in the median between the southbound and northbound lanes, about 1,680 feet from where it struck the semitrailer. The 50-year-old male car driver died as a result of the crash. The 45-year-old male truck driver was uninjured.
The probable cause of the Delray Beach, Florida, crash was the truck driver’s failure to yield the right of way to the car, combined with the car driver’s inattention due to overreliance on automation, which resulted in his failure to react to the presence of the truck. Contributing to the crash was the operational design of Tesla’s partial automation system, which permitted disengagement by the driver, and the company’s failure to limit the use of the system to the conditions for which it was designed. Further contributing to the crash was the failure of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to develop a method of verifying manufacturers’ incorporation of acceptable system safeguards for vehicles with Level 2 automation capabilities that limit the use of automated vehicle control systems to the conditions for which they were designed.