A fiery Tesla car crash killed two with no one in the driver’s seat.
Explained by Harris County Precinct 4 Constable Mark Herman, the crash happened about 9 p.m. Saturday night in a town about 30 miles north of Houston, and involved two men who were inside a 2019 Tesla S.
“There was no one in the driver’s seat,” Sgt. Cinthya Umanzor of the Harris County Constable Precinct 4 said of the crash on Saturday night.
Per the local television station KHOU-TV, the 2019 Tesla Model S was traveling at high speeds when it failed to navigate a curve and went off the track, crashing into a tree and bursting into flames.
Authorities discovered two passengers after the fire was put out, one in the front passenger seat and the other in the back seat of the Tesla, cited Herman.
“Our preliminary investigation is determining — but it’s not complete yet — that there was no one at the wheel of that vehicle,” he said. “We’re almost 99.9 percent sure.”
The victims, aged 59 and 69, dropped off their wives at a nearby house earlier that Saturday and told them they were going for a trip in the Tesla, Herman stated. The constable also said that the men were touting the electric vehicle’s features.
Police haven’t yet established if the driver-side airbag deployed or the car’s driver assistance system was enabled at the time of the accident.
Based on the evidence at the scene, the car was speeding when it lost control and landed more than 100 feet off the lane. According to Herman, the car then exploded, and firefighters spent four hours and 30,000 gallons of water attempting to put out the flames.
The investigators said that the car’s battery acid was highly flammable, making the fire extremely difficult to put out. The firefighters eventually had to leave the fire to extinguish itself.
A request for comment from Tesla and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration was not immediately returned.
Following recent incidents, Tesla’s semi-automated driving technology has come under increased scrutiny, and the company is planning to roll out its revised “extreme self-driving” program to a larger number of customers.
Autopilot, which Tesla and its CEO, Elon Musk, have long claimed makes their cars safer than other vehicles, has gotten the company more scrutiny than it has in the last five years. A number of recent incidents involving Teslas that were either using Autopilot or may have been using it are being investigated by federal officials.
In March, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration announced that it had launched 27 inquiries into Tesla vehicle accidents. At least three of the collisions took place recently.
Musk predicted big profits from the company’s full self-driving software in January, saying he is “highly confident the car will be able to drive itself with reliability in excess of human this year.”
Tesla warns on its website that the driver assistance systems it provides do not allow its vehicles fully self-driving, and that active driver control is still needed.
However, videos also show people driving Teslas while sleeping or with their hands off the wheel for long periods of time.