Two people died Saturday night when a Tesla crashed into a tree north of Houston and caught fire immediately after. Authorities believed that at the time of the crash, there was no one in the driver’s seat.
Initial police reports said that one of the two passengers sat in the front passenger seat while the other was in the back seat of the Tesla.
According to Harris County Constable Mark Herman, the vehicle traveled at high speed along a curve before the Tesla crashed into a tree around 11:25 pm. “Our preliminary investigation is determining—but it’s not complete yet—that there was no one at the wheel of that vehicle. We’re almost 99.9% sure,” the constable said.
Emergency responders needed four hours to put out the fire that engulfed the vehicle after crashing. In addition, they required over 32,000 gallons of water to put out the fire.
Electric cars like Tesla’s use high-voltage batteries. These can reignite after sustaining damage, according to the National Transportation Safety Board. Authorities are still investigating the case. In particular, they are trying to determine if the passenger airbag deployed.
Also, investigators are checking if the advanced driver-assistance system was active at the moment of the crash. Tesla and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) have yet to respond to the incident.
Tesla Crashed Despite Autopilot
Tesla’s advanced driver-assistance system, also known as Autopilot, is one of the company’s key features when touting their Tesla cars.
Previously, the electric vehicle maker said driving with the Autopilot system engaged is safer than doing so without it. However, the company still reminds drivers to pay attention to the road when engaging the autopilot system.
They should also remain on alert to take back control of the vehicle during instances. Recently, Tesla began rolling out an upgraded suite of assistance features on a limited basis, which they termed “full self-driving.”
“Autopilot and full self-driving capability are intended for use with a fully attentive driver, who has their hands on the wheel and is prepared to take over at any moment,” Tesla says on its website, noting that the features don’t make the vehicle autonomous.
Some safety advocates criticized Tesla for not doing enough to discourage drivers from abusing the system. Some drivers depend too much on the self-driving features, or use them in situations they’re not suited for. Many called out Tesla’s wordings in its list of features. Terms such as “Autopilot” and “full self-driving” often give drivers the wrong idea about how Tesla cars work.
Unnecessary Risks to The Public
Jason Levine, executive director of Center for Auto Safety, remains critical of Tesla. “They are intentionally, foreseeably creating unnecessary risks to the public,” he said.
However, Tesla responded to federal officials by saying that it doesn’t need to limit where drivers are allowed to use its assistance system. But only because the vehicle is under the driver’s control.
At present, the NHTSA does not have any rules on how companies should monitor driver engagement. The NTSB, the agency in charge of issuing safety recommendations, said that the NHTSA shouldn’t overlook that, as it puts people at risk.
NHTSA replied it will evaluate its next steps to ensure the safety of EV drivers. In fact, Autopilot is under heightened scrutiny for the last few months. The agency already launched more than two dozen advanced driver-assistance-related investigations in Tesla-involved crashes.
Watch the Bloomberg Markets And Finances video reporting that a Tesla with ‘no one’ driving crashes, killing two:
Who do you think is at fault for the tragic car accident involving a Tesla? Do you blame the vehicle, or do you blame the passengers for this? Let us know what you think. Share your comments below!