NTSB Releases Preliminary Report on Tesla Crash That Killed Two People

Police have said no one was in the driver's seat at the time of the crash.
May 10, 2021, 7:19pm
Tesla Crash
Screenshot: NTSB
Screen Shot 2021-02-24 at 3
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The National Transportation Safety Board has released a preliminary report on the Tesla crash in Texas that killed two people last month in which police reported no one was in the driver's seat. The report does not settle that question but adds a few new details.

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The crash occurred just 550 feet from the Tesla owner's home. The investigators viewed home security camera footage which showed "the owner entering the car’s driver’s seat and the passenger entering the front passenger seat. The car leaves and travels about 550 feet before departing the road on a curve, driving over the curb, and hitting a drainage culvert, a raised manhole, and a tree." The car then lit on fire and both occupants died. 

Teslas, like most modern cars, come equipped with a plethora of data-logging features for crash investigators to use. But, according to the report, the fire destroyed nearly all of that. The only potentially useful hardware recovered from the car was the restraint control module which the NTSB said "can record data associated with vehicle speed, belt status, acceleration, and airbag deployment." It sustained fire damage but investigators are evaluating whether any data can be recovered.

As for who or what was driving the car at the time of the crash, the preliminary report only says, "The vehicle was equipped with Autopilot, Tesla’s advanced driver assistance system. Using Autopilot requires both the Traffic Aware Cruise Control and the Autosteer systems to be engaged. NTSB tests of an exemplar car at the crash location showed that Traffic Aware Cruise Control could be engaged but that Autosteer was not available on that part of the road."

As far as what exactly happened in the 550 feet from the driveway to the crash site, we'll have to wait for the full report to find out.