It's possible because the Tesla self-drive / auto-drive / drive-assist feature DIDN'T SPOT THE OBSTACLE, DIDN'T APPLY THE BRAKES IN TIME and therefore DIDN'T DO WHAT IT CLAIMS.
It did do what it claims. What happened in the accident was exactly the same as a description of a limitation in the manual: "Warning: Traffic-Aware Cruise Control can not detect all objects and may not brake/decelerate for stationary vehicles, especially in situations when you are driving over 50 mph (80 km/h) and a vehicle you are following moves out of your driving path and a stationary vehicle or object, bicycle, or pedestrian is in front of you instead. Always pay attention to the road ahead and stay prepared to take immediate corrective action. Depending on Traffic-Aware Cruise Control to avoid a collision can result in serious injury or death."
That's a big effing problem!! It's already led to one death, and can easily lead to many more.
The terminology did not lead to the death. The killed driver was very aware of the limitations of the autopilot and that you need to be aware of your surroundings. He said this in his YouTube videos and the comments.
Yes I agree that "autopilot" is a horrendous choice of name because "auto" and "automatic" imply autonomy, no matter how many clickthrough EULA's you shove in front of someone.
I agree. I got in my car the other day and while driving, I remembered it is actually an automobile so I let go of the steering.
You can not get anything worthwhile done without raising a sweat. -- The First Law Of Thermodynamics