Two Killed in Driverless Tesla Crash in Texas
Two men were killed in Texas after a Tesla they were in crashed and caught fire with neither of the men behind the wheel. According to a report in The New York Times, police said the physical evidence from the scene and interviews with witnesses led officials to believe no one was driving the vehicle at the time of the crash. The Tesla, which was a 2019 Model S, was traveling at a high rate of speed around a curve when it went off the road about 100 feet and hit a tree, officials said. The crash occurred in an area about 30 miles north of Houston.
Fiery and Fatal Crash
The two men were 59 and 69 respectively. One was in the front passenger seat and another was seated in the rear. Police said that just minutes before the crash, the men’s wives watched them leave in the Tesla after they said they wanted to go for a drive and were talking about the vehicle’s Autopilot feature. Last month, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) said it was investigating nearly two dozen crashes involving Tesla vehicles that either had the Autopilot in use or may have been using it.
In the Texas crash, the car burst into flames and officials said it took them four hours to put out a fire that normally would have been extinguished within minutes. It took more than 30,000 gallons of water to put out the fire. Regulators have also raised concerns about the batteries used in electric vehicles with the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) warned in a 2020 report that the batteries could pose safety risks to emergency responders.
The NTSB report also warns about “thermal runaway,” a situation where the current flowing through the battery causes its cell temperature to rise, which increases the current with a further rise in temperature. This could cause the batteries in a car to reignite even after an initial fire is extinguished. Mitsubishi Electric warns that thermal runaway could have catastrophic consequences including fires, explosions and serious personal injuries.
Focus on Autopilot
While this particular fatal crash in Texas is still under investigation, it begs the question as to whether consumers actually understand what Autopilot is and how it works. Tesla on its website calls Autopilot the “future of driving” and states that the feature allows vehicles to steer, accelerate and brake automatically within its lane. But, at the same time, it also warns that current Autopilot features require active driver supervision and “do not make that vehicle autonomous.”
Based on numerous incidents around the country, which indicate people seem to think the Autopilot feature makes the vehicle autonomous, our auto defect lawyers believe that it is irresponsible on the part of Tesla to market the Autopilot feature in the manner it does. Consumer Reports stated back in 2016 that the name “Autopilot” suggests that the vehicle could drive itself. While we are all for new technologies that make the roads safer, we strongly believe that these technologies must be properly tested before they are put on our roadways.