Driver in Tesla Autopilot Crash Was Watching 'Harry Potter' DVD

"He went so fast through my trailer I didn't see him."

Getty Images / Justin Sullivan

On Thursday, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) opened a preliminary investigation to determine if a defect in Tesla’s autopilot feature that caused the death of 40-year-old Josh Brown in Williston, Florida on May 7. Today, the driver of the truck that collided with the vehicle claims the Tesla owner was watching Harry Potter through a DVD player in the car.

Frank Baressi, 62, the driver of the truck that killed Brown, told the Associated Press that the Tesla Model S was driving so quickly that, “he went so fast through my trailer I didn’t see him,” and claimed he was “playing Harry Potter on the TV screen” at the time of the crash.

The initial police report made no mention of the movie, and Baressi admitted that he only heard, not saw the film playing. However, the Florida Highway Patrol told Reuters that a DVD player was found in the car.

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

The Canton, Ohio native had previously posted a video of him narrowly avoiding a utility truck crossing his lane from the car’s blind spot, and admitted in the video’s description that he was not looking in the truck’s direction while using autopilot.

Tesla previously claimed that the sun reflecting off the white trailer of the truck was so bright that neither the autopilot feature nor the driver saw the vehicle merging lanes. However, the company also maintains that the autopilot feature was never intended to be fully autonomous in the first place, and instructs drivers to keep their hands on the wheel.

Tesla released a statement on Thursday calling Brown “a friend to Tesla and the broader EV community,” and pointed out that there is a fatality for every 94 million miles driven in the conventional cars in the United States, and Tesla’s vehicles have already accumulated 1 billion miles before Brown’s death, the first fatality linked to the autopilot feature.