On Monday, two US agencies said they were investigating a Tesla crash in Texas on Saturday in which two died and what local police said was no one on the driver’s seat.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), which regulates vehicle safety, and the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) both said they would investigate the accident.
NHTSA stated that “immediately launched a special crash investigation team to investigate the accident. We are actively engaged with local law enforcement and Tesla to learn more about the details of the accident and when we have more information Will take appropriate steps.
Just hours before the crash, Tesla Inc. CEO Elon Musk tweeted to his 50 million followers, “Tesla with autopilot now indicated 10 times less chance of accident than an average vehicle.”
Tesla, whose shares were down 3.4% on Monday, did not immediately comment.
The crash occurred as investigations on Tesla’s semi-automatic autopilot driving system are increasing following recent accidents.
Autopilot had been operating since 2016 in at least three Tesla vehicles involved in fatal US accidents. The NHTSA has sent teams in recent weeks for at least three other Tesla accidents that were believed to be tied to autopilot use.
Local television station KHOU-TV said that in Saturday’s crash, the 2019 Tesla Model S was traveling at a high speed near Houston when it failed to negotiate a curve and went across the road, collided with a tree and Was engulfed in flames.
After extinguishing the fire, officers located two occupants in the vehicle, one in which the front seat and the other Tesla’s rear seat were KHO-TV, citing Harris County Precinct 4 constable Mark Varman.
Tesla advises drivers to keep their hands on the steering wheel and pay attention when using autopilot. However, some Tesla drivers say they are able to avoid putting their hands on the wheel for extended periods of time while using Autopilot.
Senator Richard Blumental, a Democrat, wrote on Twitter that “using Tesla’s driverless system – or any other – should not be a death risk. Advances in driving technology should be first and foremost safe.”
He said that “comprehensive inspection” by NHTSA is paramount to prevent future semi-automatic driving deaths. “
Last month, NHTSA told Reuters that it had opened 27 special investigations into Tesla vehicle accidents, 23 of which remain active, and at least three accidents recently.
The NTSB, which makes safety recommendations, but cannot recall, said it would send two people to Texas to investigate the crash, who would “focus on the operation of the vehicle and the fire that followed the crash.”
The NTSB had last criticized NHTSA’s approach to monitoring automated vehicles “because it essentially relies on waiting for problems to occur rather than eliminating safety issues.” It added that NHTSA has “taken a non-systematic approach to automated vehicle safety.”