In the US the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) has issued a preliminary report on the fatal Tesla crash in Texas last month. The Board’s findings counter the initial media coverage and the police report that blamed Tesla’s Autopilot as the culprit, which had alleged there wasn’t anyone in the driver’s seat at the time of the accident. This isn’t a final report, but there is new information about the lead-up to the accident.
According to the report, the owner’s home security camera captured the owner climbing into the Tesla’s driver’s seat, with the passenger getting in the front passenger side. The video also captured the car slowly pulling into the roadway before accelerating down the road and out of sight of the camera. An examination of the accident scene by investigators determined that the car had travelled about 550 feet before leaving the road. The car drove over a curb, hitting a drainage culvert and raised manhole before colliding with a tree.
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The Tesla Model S P100D involved in the accident was equipped with Autopilot, but the NTSB discovered that the system’s Autosteer function was not available on the part of the road where the crash occurred. Efforts to extract data from the car’s onboard data storage device were futile as the post-crash fire destroyed it. However, the car’s restraint control module has been sent to the NTSB’s laboratory for evaluation even though it was damaged in the accident. The module could provide details about the vehicle’s speed, airbag deployment, seat belt status, and the vehicle’s acceleration.
This isn’t a final summary of the incident, as the investigation is ongoing, but this new information does support Tesla’s claim that Autopilot wasn’t to blame for the accident. Tesla pointed to steering wheel damage as evidence someone was in the driver’s seat, which the NTSB has sent back to its laboratory for analysis.