Tesla offers automated driving systems under the brand names Autopilot and Full Self-Driving (FSD), as US media have reported. Any customers who have the premium FSD option, which currently costs $10,000, get a “beta” version of FSD software. It is unknown at the moment whether the collision was caused by software.
At least two male passengers died in a Tesla crash in Spring, Texas, near the city of Houston on Saturday night, and it appears that no one was behind the wheel at the time of the impact, the local NBC affiliate KPRC 2 reported.
According to the report, the Tesla electric vehicle collided with a tree and quickly burst into flames. One individual was reportedly discovered in the vehicle’s front passenger seat, while another, who is considered to be the vehicle’s owner, was discovered in the back passenger seat.
It is unknown, according to reports, whether there was no one in the driver’s seat due to the driver being moved or ejected from the seat during or after the car crashed. The police reportedly figures no one was behind the wheel based on their preliminary investigation, but they have not completed their full investigation.
According to the report, the fire that started after the crash took firefighters “hours” to put out, because the car’s batteries kept reigniting.
On Saturday, electric car producer Tesla Motors released its safety report for Q1 this year, where it stated that the company “registered one accident for every 4.19 million miles driven in which drivers had Autopilot engaged.”
“For those driving without Autopilot but with our active safety features, we registered one accident for every 2.05 million miles driven. For those driving without Autopilot and without our active safety features, we registered one accident for every 978 thousand miles driven,” the company’s report said.
The company’s founder and CEO Elon Musk praised the data and claimed that Tesla cars with Autopilot are “now approaching 10 times lower chance of accident than average vehicle.”
Interestingly enough, Tesla did not say how many of their vehicles were involved in incidents that resulted in injuries, deaths, or only vehicle or property damage.
Earlier this week, Musk boasted of the “excellent progress” of developers and engineers in improving the operation of the autopilot built into the company’s cars.
“I think Autopilot is getting good enough that you won’t need to drive most of the time unless you really want to,” Musk said on the Joe Rogan podcast in February this year.
However, in all typical driving situations, Tesla Autopilot and FSD are incapable of handling electric vehicles, as in their owner’s manual the company warns that “the currently enabled features require active driver supervision and do not make the vehicle autonomous.”
Despite this, many Tesla users and other netizens have posted videos on social media showing people driving hands-free for long periods of time, sleeping at the wheel, or driving with no one in the driver’s seat.
The fatal accident occurred while the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) evaluates public input received in advance of proposed rulemaking. The US federal government has not yet supervised automated driving systems, delegating the responsibility to states instead.
According to US media, several recent accidents involving Tesla vehicles have prompted federal investigations into whether their Autopilot or FSD systems played a role in the collisions. Last month, the NHTSA announced that it had launched 27 inquiries into Tesla vehicle accidents, 23 of which are still ongoing.