Tesla crash could hurt sentiment on driverless cars

DETROIT – The death of a driver who was using Tesla Motors’ semi-autonomous mode could add to the public’s apprehension about driverless cars.

Joshua D. Brown of Canton, Ohio, died in the accident May 7 in Williston, Florida, when his Tesla Model S failed to automatically activate its brakes and crashed into a tractor-trailer.

Tesla’s shares dropped 3 per cent in after-hours trading after the government said it would investigate the crash.

The crash could hurt efforts to bring self-driving technology to market. In a recent University of Michigan survey, two-thirds of drivers said they are moderately or very concerned about riding in a self-driving vehicle.

But analysts said Thursday that it would be unfortunate if public sentiment swung too far against driverless vehicles, which could potentially save thousands of lives each year.