NTSB Determines Autopilot Wasn’t Engaged During Tesla’s Fatal Crash

In short: An investigation into a fatal Tesla car accident in 2021, which many suspected was the fault of the car’s autopilot system, concluded that the feature could not have been activated at the time. Investigators from the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) wrote that the driver was under the influence of alcohol and drugs and was driving until the collision.

On April 17, 2021, a 2019 Tesla Model S P100D missed a turn, crashed into a tree, and caught fire in Spring, Texas. The two passengers who died in the accident were found unfastened in the passenger and rear seats, suggesting that the autopilot was engaged.

NTSB investigation discovered surveillance footage of Dr. William Varner getting into the driver’s seat of the car and Everett Talbot getting into the passenger seat before Tesla left, but the first responders to the accident found Varner’s body in the back seat.

The report found that the autopilot could not be activated because there were no lanes on the road where the crash occurred, a requirement for Tesla’s traffic-aware cruise control. Moreover, the system would not allow the vehicle to reach the speed recorded at the time of the accident. The analysis also showed that both seat belts were fastened at the time of the collision, and the steering wheel was fastened and broken.

The Event Data Recorder in the Model S showed that five seconds before the accident, the car accelerated from 39 to 67 mph in two seconds and traveled 57 mph to a complete stop. The airbags deployed and a damaged front battery module started a fire.

The NTSB blamed the accident on speeding and driver impairment caused by alcohol and two sedative antihistamines.

The NTSB has launched several crash investigations involving Tesla vehicles over the years and has warned that the company’s “Full Self-Driving Capability” package name is misleading and irresponsible.

Yesterday, Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak accused Elon Musk and Tesla of “robbing” him and his family over false claims about Tesla’s autonomous driving capabilities.

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