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  • Ryan Wittler

Two People Died in a Tesla Crash With No One in the Driver’s Seat

Updated: Apr 28, 2021


Authorities in Houston say that two people died after the Tesla they were in crashed into a tree and burst into flames. One man was in the passenger’s seat, the other was in the back, and nobody was at the wheel. It took firefighters 30,000 gallons of water over four hours to extinguish the flames, as the car's battery kept reigniting.

What we know so far:

It appears the car was traveling at a high rate of speed when it failed to make a turn, drove off the road, and collided with a tree. Authorities didn’t know whether the 2019 Tesla’s “Autopilot” feature had been activated, but Tesla CEO, Elon Musk, appears to have cleared that up in a tweet saying “data logs recovered so far” suggest the Autopilot feature was not engaged at the time of the crash, nor did the vehicle even have Tesla’s “Full Self-Driving” option that would allow for Autopilot use.

Why it matters:

The crash has piqued the interest of two federal agencies. On Monday, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) said they would both send teams to investigate the crash.

The NHTSA, which has authority to regulate automakers and pursue recalls for defective vehicles, has typically stayed away from regulating automated systems in vehicles for fear of impeding innovation in an area with an obviously promising future. The NTSB, which only has the power to issue recommendations, has previously asked that the NHTSA and Tesla limit automated vehicle systems to roads which can reliably and safely operate the systems. So far, neither Tesla or the agency has taken any action, and researchers in the space are not optimistic for change.

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