According to a government study released Monday, a home surveillance camera video shows the owner of a Tesla getting into the driver’s seat of the vehicle moments before a fatal accident in suburban Houston.
The official study on the accident that killed two men does not explain why no one was found behind the wheel of the sedan, which exploded in flames after crashing some 550 feet from the owner’s house. It’s also impossible to tell if Tesla’s partly automatic driver-assist system, “Autopilot,” was in use at the time of the accident.
According to the National Transportation Safety Board, all elements of the accident are also being investigated. However, the fire destroyed an onboard data storage system in the console. A device that monitors airbag and seat belt status, as well as speed and acceleration, was disabled and is being investigated by the National Transportation Safety Board.
According to the NTSB, a separate Tesla vehicle was tested on the same lane, and the Autopilot driver-assist system was not fully functional. The system’s automatic steering system was not functional, but investigators were able to use Traffic-Aware Cruise Control.
Both cruise control and automatic steering are needed for Autopilot to work. Although autosteer keeps the car in its own lane, Traffic-Aware Cruise Control will keep it a safe distance from cars in front of it.
In its paper, the NTSB said, “The NTSB continues to gather data to assess crash dynamics, postmortem toxicology test outcomes, seat belt use, passenger egress, and electric vehicle fires.”
According to the department, it plans to issue safety guidelines in the future to deter similar accidents.
The car went off the road on a curve, ran over a curb, struck a drainage culvert, a raised manhole, and a tree, according to the NTSB report. The high-voltage lithium-ion battery, which started the fire, was destroyed in the accident. One man was lying in the front passenger seat, while another was found in the back, according to local authorities.
The speed of the car was not specified in the report, but Harris County Precinct Four Constable Mark Herman said it was high. He wouldn’t tell if there was any proof that someone tampered with Tesla’s driver-monitoring device, which senses force from the driver’s hands on the steering wheel. If the device does not register paws, it will give alerts and ultimately shut down the vehicle. However, critics claim that Tesla’s machine is easy to fool and that it can take up to a minute to shut down.
In April, Consumer Reports reported that it was simple to fool a Tesla into driving in Autopilot mode with no one behind the wheel.