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Texas police to demand Tesla crash data as Musk denies Autopilot use

Stock MarketsApr 20, 2021 12:07AM ET
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© Reuters. The remains of a Tesla vehicle are seen after it crashed in The Woodlands, Texas

By David Shepardson and Hyunjoo Jin

WASHINGTON/BERKELEY (Reuters) -Texas police will serve search warrants on Tesla (NASDAQ:TSLA) Inc on Tuesday to secure data from a fatal vehicle crash, a senior officer told Reuters on Monday, after CEO Elon Musk said company checks showed the car's Autopilot driver assistance system was not engaged.

Mark Herman, Harris County Constable Precinct 4, said evidence including witness statements clearly indicated there was nobody in the driver's seat of the Model S when it crashed into a tree, killing two people, on Saturday night.

Herman said a tweet by Musk on Monday afternoon, saying that data logs retrieved by the company so far ruled out the use of the Autopilot system, was the first officials had heard from the company.

"If he is tweeting that out, if he has already pulled the data, he hasn’t told us that," Herman told Reuters. "We will eagerly wait for that data."

The crash is the 28th Telsa accident to be investigated by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), which regulates vehicle safety.

It is also being probed by the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), which removed Tesla as a party to an earlier investigation into a fatal crash in 2018 after the company made public details of the probe without authorisation.

In Saturday's accident, the 2019 Tesla Model S was traveling at high-speed near Houston when it failed to negotiate a curve and went off the road, crashing into a tree and bursting into flames, Herman said.

Authorities found the bodies of two men in the car, one in the front passenger seat and the owner of the car in the backseat.

"We have witness statements from people that said they left to test drive the vehicle without a driver and to show the friend how it can drive itself," Herman said.

Tesla's Autopilot is a driver assistance system that handles some driving tasks and allows drivers to take their hands off the steering wheel at times, but Tesla says its features "require active driver supervision and do not make the vehicle autonomous."

In his tweet, Musk rejected the idea that the vehicle's semi-automated driving software was to blame: "Data logs recovered so far show Autopilot was not enabled & this car did not purchase FSD," in a reference to Full Self-Driving, Tesla's separate beta semi-automated driver assistance system that still requires driver supervision.

Musk added that "standard Autopilot would require lane lines to turn on, which this street did not have," referring to road markers that need to be captured by a vehicle's cameras to enable autopilot.

Tesla has access to operational and diagnostic data delivered to its servers at "regular intervals" from the car, which has been impounded by police. It is unclear whether investigators will be able to retrieve data directly from the event data recorder in the severely burned vehicle.

Just hours before the crash, Musk had tweeted: "Tesla with Autopilot engaged now approaching 10 times lower chance of accident than average vehicle."

'SHOULDN'T BE A DEATH RISK'

Tesla's Autopilot system, which was operating in at least three Tesla vehicles involved in fatal U.S. crashes since 2016, has come under increasing scrutiny.

NHTSA told Reuters last month it had opened 27 special investigations into crashes of Tesla vehicles, 23 of which remain active, in crashes believed to have been tied to Autopilot use.

Tesla did not respond to a request for comment. Its shares closed down 3.4% Monday before picking up 1.5% in after hours trading following Musk's tweet.

Senator Richard Blumenthal, a Democrat, wrote on Twitter that "using Tesla's driverless system — or any other — shouldn't be a death risk. Advancements in driving technology must first & foremost be safe."

The NTSB, which makes safety recommendations but cannot compel recalls, said its investigation into the Texas crash would focus "on the vehicle's operation and the post-crash fire."

Fire officials said it took four hours to completely extinguish the fire because of the car's lithium ion battery.

Texas police to demand Tesla crash data as Musk denies Autopilot use
 

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Comments (9)
Fabrizio Fusaro
Fabrizio Fusaro Apr 20, 2021 7:22AM ET
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Musk in 2019 said that they would have kicked taxi driver out of the car in 2020. In 2021 he’s saying that FSD need constant supervision after people died because of it. Let him play with fools money but not with fools llifes.
Anthony Anthony
Anthony Anthony Apr 20, 2021 2:58AM ET
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Those two diks are too st. Up ID to turn on autopilot before jumping to back seat.
Xxx Xxx
Xxx Xxx Apr 20, 2021 2:48AM ET
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please dip so I can jump back in.
Kaveh Sun
Kaveh Sun Apr 20, 2021 2:04AM ET
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Tesla is not even self driving level 3. Somebody has to sit behind the wheel period. If Tesla doesnt have sensor to detect driver sits down on the chair, joke is on them.
Joel Schwartz
Joel Schwartz Apr 20, 2021 1:54AM ET
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Just the fact that “FSD” isn’t full at all is pretty misleading to both consumers and investors. Either the cars are fully self driving or semi-assisted driving. They can’t be “full” for the sake of the stock price and “semi” for the sake of accidents. Good luck to Tesla here, but they need to change the misleading name of that driving option for a few reasons.
Kaveh Sun
Kaveh Sun Apr 20, 2021 1:54AM ET
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It is ‘driving assitant’ but market as ‘self driving’.
Dugan Webb
Dugan Webb Apr 20, 2021 12:40AM ET
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we must now Ban all Teslas and their harmful batteries! where is the liberal outrage?
Eudon Hickey
Eudon Hickey Apr 20, 2021 12:40AM ET
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Rather ban the white lines on the roads
Rick Baier
Rick Baier Apr 19, 2021 11:16PM ET
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2 people dead and no one behind the wheel? We're they sitting in the back seat. Millenaials and generation Z on display.
Rick Baier
Rick Baier Apr 19, 2021 11:16PM ET
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Millennials . spell correction
Jimmy Sandra
Jimmy Sandra Apr 19, 2021 11:16PM ET
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Rick Baier you made assumption. Two victims were 59 and 69 years old
Charanjit Kapoor
Charanjit Kapoor Apr 19, 2021 11:16PM ET
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How could the car be driving on its own if there was a person in the passenger seat and another in the back unless Autopilot was activated.
Kaveh Sun
Kaveh Sun Apr 19, 2021 11:16PM ET
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Charanjit Kapoor driver could unbuckle the seat belt and threw to the back during impact.
Lars Hellman
LarsH Apr 19, 2021 3:18PM ET
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Hodle the steering weel.
Hicham Elgallaf
Hicham Elgallaf Apr 19, 2021 3:07PM ET
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it 's time to buy and wait.
 
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