A crash involving a Tesla Model S in Texas killed two passengers.
We say “passengers” instead of “occupants” because it appears there was no one in the driver’s seat at the time of the crash.
At least, that’s what authorities claim.
“I can tell you our investigators are certain no one was in the driver’s seat at the time of the crash,” Constable Mark Herman, who is in charge of the Harris County police precinct that handled the crash, told CNN today.
The crash happened in Spring, Texas, a suburb of Houston. The bodies were found in the front passenger seat and the rear seat of the car. The victims were 69 and 59 years old and their names have not been released as of this writing.
The car, a 2019 Model S, apparently wrecked by failing to negotiate a curve before going off-road and hitting trees. Herman told CNN that evidence suggested the car was traveling at a “high rate of speed”.
A 2019 Model S would likely have Tesla’s Autopilot hands-free assistance system and could’ve had the company’s “Full-Self Driving” driver-assist system. Despite the names, neither system actually offers full-self driving, aka level 5 autonomy.
It’s easy to speculate that the driver didn’t understand how these systems work and a failure of autonomous systems led to the crash, but we simply don’t know the cause of the crash right now. We don’t even know if the car had FSD.
Either way, Tesla has come under fire for selling FSD as full-self driving when it actually isn’t — it’s a level 2 system, not level 5. In this author’s view, that criticism is fair, regardless of what caused this specific crash.
Telsa boss CEO did tweet claims about Autopilot’s safety over the weekend, though it’s unclear if his tweet has any relation to the incident.
Tesla with Autopilot engaged now approaching 10 times lower chance of accident than average vehicle https://t.co/6lGy52wVhC
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) April 17, 2021
Autopilot does require the driver’s seatbelt to be buckled before it can work.
The crash resulted in a car fire that took four hours and 32,000 gallons of water to quelch.
While the National Transportation Safety Board has not yet decided whether it will or won’t investigate, CNN reports that the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration did assign a Special Crash Investigation team to find out more about what happened.
We’ll update this post if and when further information becomes available.