In April 2021, a Tesla Model S carrying two passengers in Texas crashed into a tree and ignited due to damage caused to its batteries. The passengers were killed in the Tesla crash before they could be pulled from the wreckage. Witnesses implicated Tesla’s “Autopilot” feature as a factor in the crash, and the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) is currently investigating the incident.
The NTSB says no one in the back seat of the Tesla crash
The NTSB released an update to their investigation of the Tesla Model S crash that claimed two lives on April 17th, 2021. When the collision occurred, local police said witnesses stated that no one was in the driver’s seat when the Telsa crashed into a tree. Those statements would suggest that Tesla’s semi-autonomous “Autopilot” feature was controlling the car at the time of the crash.
However, according to a report from Reuters, the NTSB’s investigation update states that “both the driver and the passenger seats were occupied, and that the seat belts were buckled when the (event data recorder) recorded the crash.”
According to the NTSB, a forensic examination of the steering wheel and the car’s data recorder, the Tesla Model S traveled at 67 mph just 5 seconds before the impact.
The NTSB added that “the driver was applying the accelerator in the time leading up to the crash; application of the accelerator pedal was found to be as high as 98.8%,” according to the data gathered.
This update from the NTSB appears to refute any claims that Autopilot was in control during the Tesla crash. However, Harris County Constable Mark Herman stating “We have witness statements from people that said they left to test drive the vehicle without a driver and to show the friend how it can drive itself.”
The NTSB does not officially rule out Tesla Autopilot
Despite the NTSB’s investigation update, which seemingly puts Autopilot in the clear, the government agency has not officially stated that Autopilot was not to blame. “No conclusions about how the crash happened should be drawn from the information in this investigative update,” said the NTSB. All factors of the Tesla crash continue to be actively investigated.
The NTSB’s previous investigation update from May 2021 suggested that the automated steering feature associated with Autopilot was “not available” in the location that the crash happened.
An autopsy report revealed that one of the victims of the Tesla crash had a blood-alcohol level that exceeded the legal limit. However, it was not mentioned if that victim was the driver or the passenger.
A shockingly similar accident happened in Florida
On September 15th, 2021, a Tesla crash happened in Coral Gables, Florida, which is shockingly similar to the April crash in Texas. The Florida crash took two passengers’ lives and involved the vehicle hitting a tree and bursting into flames. One significant difference is that rather than a Model S, the car involved in the crash was a Tesla Model 3.
Coral Gables Police said that it was unclear if Autopilot was involved in that crash, but the NTSB sent agents to the scene to investigate. The NTSB said its investigation would focus on the vehicle’s operation and the massive fire that engulfed it after the moment of impact.
The investigation of both crashes appears to be ongoing, so there may be more information that will come to light soon.