A Tesla on autopilot with no one driving crashed into a tree in Houston, igniting a massive fire that took 32,000 gallons of water to extinguish, Texas police say.
Two men, aged 59 and 69, perished in the Saturday night crash.
“Investigators say the 2019 Tesla Model S was traveling at a high rate of speed when it approached a slight curve in Spring, a Houston suburb,” The Smoking Gun reported. “Instead of navigating the bend, the fully-electric car drove straight off the road and struck a tree.”
“There was no one in the driver’s seat,” Sgt. Cinthya Umanzor of the Harris County Constable Precinct 4 said, according to Reuters. One victim was in the front passenger seat, the other in the backseat.
“Investigators suspect that the vehicle was running in Tesla’s ‘Autopilot’ mode, which the manufacturer says ‘enables your car to steer, accelerate, and brake automatically within its lane.’ However, the feature does not make the car autonomous and requires ‘active driver supervision,’ according to Tesla’s website,” the Gun reported.
According to KPRC 2, the brother-in-law of one of the victims said the men were taking the car out for a drive and that the driver was seen backing out of the driveway and may have hopped in the back seat before the crash.
It’s not the first time a driverless Tesla has been in a crash. Last year, a North Carolina driver watching a movie on his phone in his Tesla Model S was running in “Autopilot” mode when he crashed into a police car stopped on a highway for an accident. The Tesla owner, an emergency room doctor, was charged with a pair of vehicular law violations, the Gun reported.
“The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) is now investigating 23 crashes involving Tesla cars believed to be on Autopilot, the New York Times reported,” according to The Daily Mail.
The NHTSA said in March it has 27 investigations into crashes of Tesla vehicles.
But Tesla CEO Elon Musk said in January that he expects huge profits from its full self-driving software, saying he is “highly confident the car will be able to drive itself with reliability in excess of human this year.”
“Tesla with Autopilot engaged now approaching 10 times lower chance of accident than average vehicle,” Musk wrote on Twitter.
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
“In the first quarter of 2021, the company registered one accident for every 4.19 million miles driven with Autopilot engaged. For those driving without Autopilot but with the Tesla’s active safety features, the company registered one accident for every 2.05 million miles driven. As for those driving without Autopilot or active safety features, the company registered one accident for every 978,000 miles driven,” Fox Business reported.
“In comparison, the most recent data from the National Highway Transportation Security Administration, the auto industry’s top safety regulator, finds that there is an automobile crash in the United States every 484,000 miles.”
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