Driverless Tesla Car Crash
Two men were killed in Texas when a Tesla they rode in crashed last Saturday, with neither of them behind the wheel. The Model S vehicle was going at a high speed when turning a curve, and went off the road colliding into a tree. One man was in the front passenger seat while another in the back of the car, leaving nobody at the wheel.
The Harris County Constable Mark Herman said that the data logs from Tesla has eliminated the Autopilot system as the cause of the crash. This accident is also the 28th Tesla accident to be investigated by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). The Tesla Autopilot system essentially drives the car, and can do many tasks, but Tesla says that the features “require active driver supervision and do not make the vehicle autonomous”, which could not have happened given that no passengers were in the driver’s seat. Additionally, Elon Musk tweeted that the driving software was not to blame for the accident: “Data logs recovered so far show Autopilot was not enabled & this car did not purchase FSD”, or Full-Self Driving, which is Tesla’s experimental semi-automated driving system.
The fire caused by the crash was also hard to put out. Taking out the fire took 4 hours and 30000 gallons of water, due to the batteries used in electric vehicles. The result of a crash is often a “thermal runway” leading to batteries catching on fire and extremely dangerous fires with chances of explosion. The lithium-ion battery contained within the car caught on fire due to the collision, and firefighters will now have to face these more dangerous fires more frequently with the rise of electric vehicles that use them.
Senator Richard Blumenthal had words for Tesla’s driverless system on Twitter, saying that “using Tesla’s driverless system – or any other – shouldn’t be a death risk. Advancements in driving technology must first & foremost be safe.” Questions are still rising if this is at the fault of the Tesla car, or irresponsible driving, and will be answered with the investigation still ongoing.