A Tesla branded driverless electric car crashed late Saturday in The Woodlands (Texas), killing the two passengers on the spot as the car burst into flames after bumping into a roadside tree, according to the local police.
As Reuters reports, the incident took place in the neighbourhood of Carlton Woods near The Woodlands as the speeding car hit a roadside tree after failing to control a turn.
The driverless car has been identified as the 2019 Tesla Model S with one victim found in the front passenger seat and the other in the back, according to Harris County Precinct 4 Constable Mark Herman’s statement in a telephone interview.
Pointing to the victims’ seating position, eye-witness statements and other physical evidence at the place of incident, Herman confirms that “no one was driving the vehicle at the time of impact.” He further added that the case is “still under investigation.”
Herman further pointed out that it was unclear if the Autopilot feature was fully activated at the time of the accident or if the car was running in semi-manual mode. Detailing the incident, he added that it took more than 30,000 gallons of water to extinguish the fire, which burned for four hours.
Federal authorities have been informed about the incident as Tesla has once again drawn severe criticism from the officials for fire risks associated with the battery packs installed in its cars. The company has also been accused of not implementing enough fail-safety measures when engaging the Autopilot feature or using the car’s driver-assist function.
In a public hearing in 2020, the National Transportation Safety Board’s (NTSB) Chairman reiterated that “it’s time to stop enabling drivers in any partially automated vehicle to pretend that they have driverless cars.”
Although Tesla has not issued any comment on the incident, the company’s CEO Elon Musk had recently defended the safety record of Tesla vehicles via Twitter. The tweet stated that a Tesla car with Autopilot engaged would have “10 times lower” chance of an accident than a non-autonomous vehicle.
NTSB has refrained from opening a fresh probe on Tesla in the aftermath of the accident as it is already investigating a slew of previous Tesla crashes, according to its spokesman Chris O’Neil.