Texas police were to serve search warrants on Tesla on Tuesday (20 April) to obtain data from a fatal vehicle crash, a senior officer told Reuters after CEO Elon Musk claimed company checks showed the car’s Autopilot driver assistance system was not engaged.
Multiple media reports said there was no one in the driver’s seat of the Model S when it hit a tree near Houston last Saturday night (17 April).
One victim reportedly was in the front passenger seat, the second in the rear. They were both men, one aged in his 50s, the other in the 70s.
A police source told Reuters a Musk tweet on Monday afternoon, claiming 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,” Reuters was told. “We will eagerly wait for that data.”
Reuters said the crash was the 28th Telsa accident to be investigated by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).
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, the report said.
The 2019 Tesla Model S which crashed at the weekend was traveling at high speed and failed to negotiate a curve, went off the road, crashed into a tree and burst into flames.
Media reports said the fire service used 30,000 gallons of water on the fire which kept re-igniting.
“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,” the police source told Reuters.
Tesla insists AutoPilot features “require active driver supervision and do not make the vehicle autonomous.”
Musk tweeted: “Data logs recovered so far show Autopilot was not enabled & this car did not purchase FSD,” in a reference to the optional Full Self-Driving beta semi-automated driver assistance system which still requires driver supervision, Reuters added.
The Tesla CEO also said “standard Autopilot would require lane lines to turn on which this street did not have”.
Ironically hours before the crash, Musk had tweeted: “Tesla with Autopilot engaged now approaching 10 times lower chance of accident than average vehicle,” the news agency reported.