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US regulators probe ‘driverless’ Tesla crash that killed 2 men

(ATF) US regulators said on Monday they would investigate a fatal car crash involving a Tesla that apparently had no one behind the wheel when it hit a tree and caught fire.

Two men were found in the wreckage of the 2019 Model S, both in passenger seats. The crash occurred in the Texas town of Spring, near Houston, on Saturday night.

Although an investigation has not yet begun, Tesla boss Elon Musk defended the car’s systems on Twitter, saying its controversial Autopilot system was not engaged and the owner had not purchased the “full self driving” (FSD) option.

“Data logs recovered so far show Autopilot was not enabled & this car did not purchase FSD,” Musk wrote on Twitter.

Autopilot software allows the car to park on its own or navigate on the highway, while FSD is a more expensive autonomous technology, although the driver is not supposed to let go of the steering wheel.

Hours before the crash, Musk tweeted: “Tesla with Autopilot engaged now approaching 10 times lower chance of accident than average vehicle.”


Harris County police official Mark Herman told local media the initial investigation found no one was in the driver’s seat of the vehicle. One of the victims was discovered in the passenger seat and the other in the back seat.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) said it launched a “Special Crash Investigation team” to investigate. “We are actively engaged with local law enforcement and Tesla to learn more about the details of the crash and will take appropriate steps when we have more information,” the agency said.

Another regulator, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) said on Twitter it had dispatched two investigators to the scene, who “will focus on the vehicle’s operation and the post-crash fire.”

Local investigators had not determined whether the driver’s side airbag deployed or if the vehicle’s driver assistance system was deployed at the time of the accident.

The crash is unlikely to affect Tesla’s status as a popular stock.

“The company continues to surprise to the upside with first-quarter delivery numbers at 170,000 vehicles, which was above analysts’ estimates,” Peter Garnry, head of equity strategy at Saxo Bank, said.

“This was particularly driven by a big uptake in Model Y sales in China,” he added.

With reporting by Agence France-Presse


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George Russell

George Russell is a freelance writer and editor based in Hong Kong who has lived in Asia since 1996. His work has been published in the Financial Times, The Wall Street Journal, Bloomberg, New York Post, Variety, Forbes and the South China Morning Post.


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