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Police: Driver In Tesla Autopilot Crash Had Portable DVD Player In Car, May Have Been Watching Movie (Updated)

Illustration for article titled Police: Driver In Tesla Autopilot Crash Had Portable DVD Player In Car, May Have Been Watching Movie (Updated)em/em

Joshua D. Brown was killed when his Tesla Model S crashed into the side of a tractor trailer on May 7th, leading to an NHTSA investigation of Tesla’s Autopilot feature. A new report claims that a Harry Potter movie could be heard playing in the car after the crash. Update: Police report a DVD player was found inside the vehicle.


According to the statement released on Thursday by Tesla detailing the accident, both the car’s Autopilot system and the driver failed to apply the brake pedal leading up to the collision with the tractor trailer.


The car impacted the trailer at the windshield level and then continued down the road until crashing through two fences and a light post. The driver of the Model S, Joshua Brown, was killed in the accident.

As reported by the Associated Press, the driver of the tractor trailer claims the driver of the Model S was playing a Harry Potter movie from inside the car, which reportedly could still be heard after the accident.

From AP:

Frank Baressi, 62, the driver of the tractor-trailer and owner of Okemah Express LLC, said the Tesla driver was “playing Harry Potter on the TV screen” and driving so quickly that “he went so fast through my trailer I didn’t see him.”

“It was still playing when he died and snapped a telephone pole a quarter mile down the road,” Baressi said in an in an interview from his home in Palm Harbor, Florida. He acknowledged he couldn’t see the movie, only heard it.

Tesla Motors Inc. said it is not possible to watch videos on the Model S touch screen.


Joshua Brown was an active fan of his Tesla Model S and its Autopilot feature, posting 20 videos to his YouTube channel, some gaining over a million views.

Many of these videos show Brown listening to audio books while driving, and it’s unclear if that may have been the case in this situation.


Tesla referred to Brown as a friend of the EV community in its statement.

Brown was a Navy Seal who later started his own tech company, Nexu Innovations Inc. You can read his obituary here.


Jalopnik has reached out to Tesla for comment, and will update this post with any new information.

Update: Sergeant Kim Montes of the Florida Highway Patrol said a DVD player was found inside the wrecked Model S after the crash, according to a phone interview with the Associated Press.


This post and its headline were edited to clarify that the audio could reportedly be heard playing in the car after the crash.


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Bottom line, it doesn’t matter what he was doing in the car, what matters is what he wasn’t doing, which is driving. He got so confident with his use of the system, and encouraged by the popularity, that he probably thought the autopilot would drive for him, or at least save him.

Tesla should do the following:

- Disable the beta, and restrict it to employee cars only, and that on a volunteer basis. You cannot test a critical system to this car on consumers surrounded by other people unaware of what you are doing.

- If they don’t do the above, they need to retrofit a light or something to warn other drivers that they are in ‘autopilot’ and might not be paying attention.

- Remove the access to the beta system for all those that have recorded themselves using ap in an inappropriate manner.

At a minimum. They seriously underestimated what they created and how it would be used. It’s such....such an ‘engineer problem’. Engineers design things to be used in a specific way, they try and think what other people are going to do, but they tend to overpromise and under deliver (particularly when rushing), and I say this as a software engineer. I also think that the eagerness to beat Google to autonomy in the actual market - with a physical offering, not some ‘secret’ project, resulted in what happened.