Man who put driverless car on autopilot 'to watch Harry Potter' dies in smash

Trailer driver Frank Baressi said he heard a film playing as he approached Joshua Brown's car

A man who put his car on autopilot to reportedly watch a Harry Potter film has become the first motorist to die in a self-drive smash.

Ex-US Navy SEAL Joshua Brown, 40, was killed when his electric-powered Tesla Model S ploughed through an 18-wheel tractor-trailer, ripping the top off the car.

The self-drive system failed to recognise the trailer’s white side against the bright sky and did not hit the brakes in time.

Trailer driver Frank Baressi said he heard a film playing as he approached the wreck .

Mr Brown had previously spoken of how the autopilot had saved him from a crash

The haulage boss, 62, said the car “went so fast I didn’t even see him go through” and Mr Brown was “playing Harry Potter on the TV screen”.

Mr Baressi added: “It was still playing when he died. The car snapped a telephone pole a quarter mile down the road.”

He said he did not actually see the film playing but he heard it.

The Tesla smashed through two fences and the pole before coming to a rest on Route 27 in Williston, Florida, in May. Tech company founder Mr Brown was part of Tesla’s “EV ­community”, a group of electric vehicle enthusiasts, and he had posted 20 videos of the Model S and its autopilot feature to his YouTube channel.

The high-tech Tesla Model S

In some, he can be heard listening to audiobooks as he drives. And in a post from April he spoke of how the autopilot, which can slow the car or change lanes to avoid a collision, had previously saved him from a crash with a truck.

Tesla said: “Neither Autopilot nor the driver noticed the white side of the tractor trailer against a brightly lit sky, so the brake was not applied.

“The high ride height of the trailer combined with its positioning across the road and the extremely rare circumstances of the impact caused the Model S to pass under the trailer, with the bottom of the trailer impacting the windshield.”

The California-based company added that films cannot be watched on the ­dashboard screen of the Tesla Model S.

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