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Tesla Driver Killed While Using 'Autopilot'

FILE - A Tesla Model S with version 7.0 software update containing Autopilot features is featured during a Tesla event in Palo Alto, California Oct.14, 2015.

Tesla says a driver was killed using the autopilot feature of the company's car, prompting a U.S. federal safety investigation.

A tractor trailer pulled into the driver's lane while the car was allegedly on autopilot mode in Florida on May 7. The car continued forward after its roof was torn off by the truck until it hit a utility pole, according to the police report.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said it has opened a "preliminary evaluation" into the autopilot mode on 25,000 Tesla Model S cars.

Tesla said Thursday this is the first known fatal collision that has occurred while a driver was using the self-drive feature, covering 209 million kilometers. The company called the accident "a tragic loss," but reminded the public that a fatality occurs every 151 million kilometers in the U.S. and every 96 million kilometers worldwide in a statement.

The idea of a self-driving vehicle has been around since the 1930s, but it has taken 80 years for the science fiction to move into the realm of just science. While the idea becomes more popular and practical, many problems remain to be resolved in the industry before these cars may become the norm.