Based on a two-page preliminary report by officials investigating the incident, the Tesla car crash in Texas that killed two men last month did not involve the vehicle’s automatic steering system.
Tesla’s advanced driver assist feature, Autopilot, was “not accessible” on the road where the accident occurred, according to a report by the US National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB).
The NTSB stated that Tesla’s Autopilot is comprised of two systems: Traffic Aware Cruise Control, which adjusts the vehicle’s speed and distance from those ahead, and Autosteer, which governs lateral steering movements.
According to the report, Autopilot cannot function unless both are activated.
The safety board discovered that cruise control could be engaged in a similar car at the crash site, but Autosteer was “not available on that part of the road.”
Autosteer assists only works in “clearly marked lanes” and isn’t always available. Tesla’s website says, an “upcoming” release of Autosteer for use on city streets is in the works.
“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,” the report said.
The report came to no conclusions about the cause or circumstances of the fiery crash on April 17 in a Houston suburb. The NTSB and local police are still investigating.
The report also included footage from the car owner’s home security camera, which showed him entering the driver’s seat while his passenger entered the adjacent front seat.
Two men – the 59-year-old owner, William Varner, an anaesthesiologist, and a 69-year-old co-passenger — died after their high-speed 2019 Tesla Model S failed to negotiate a curve, crashed into a tree, and caught fire.
The car jumped the curb on a curve, “hitting a drainage culvert, a raised manhole, and a tree,” damaging the high-voltage lithium-ion battery case at the front of the car, which caught fire, the NTSB report said.
“As a result of the crash and fire, both car occupants were fatally injured,” it said.
Local police believe the crash happened with no one in the driver’s seat, raising concerns about Tesla’s driver-assistance systems.
The incident has created new concerns about Tesla Inc’s (TSLA.O) “Autopilot” system’s protection. Elon Musk, Tesla’s CEO, said last month that Autopilot could not have been activated in the vehicle involved in the Texas tragedy.
“Data logs recovered so far show Autopilot was not enabled … Moreover, standard Autopilot would require lane lines to turn on, which this street did not have,” he tweeted.
On Monday, Tesla shares fell 6.4 percent to $629.04.
During an April 27 conference call to discuss quarterly results, the electric vehicle manufacturer stated that a study with investigators revealed that Autosteer “did not and could not engage on the road condition” during the Texas crash.
The National Transportation Safety Board is investigating the crash, as is the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), the federal agency in charge of vehicle safety, has opened 28 investigations into Tesla vehicle crashes, 24 of which are still ongoing. Since March, there have been at least four, including the fatal Texas crash.