Texas police are set to serve search warrants on Tesla today, April 20, to secure data from Saturday’s fatal crash, a senior officer told Reuters. Tesla CEO Elon Musk said company checks showed the car’s Autopilot driver assistance system was not engaged. In addition to the police warrants, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is launching an investigation as well.
“NHTSA is aware of the tragic crash involving a Tesla vehicle outside of Houston, Texas. NHTSA has immediately launched a Special Crash Investigation team to investigate the crash,” the agency said in a statement.
This latest crash is the 28th involving a Tesla that NHTSA has investigated. Reuters says 23 of them remain active, involving crashes believed to have been tied to Autopilot use.
Reuters reports that Mark Herman, Harris County Constable Precinct 4, said evidence including witness statements clearly indicates there was nobody occupying the driver’s seat when the Model S crashed into a tree, killing two people. Musk tweeted Monday that data logs Tesla retrieved ruled out the use of Autopilot and that this Model S did not have Full Self-Driving — Tesla’s separate, but still Level2 semi-automated driver assistance system. Herman said the tweet 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.”
As we’ve reported, one victim was 59 years old, while the other was 69. The victims have not yet been identified by name in press reports. We’ve also reported that firefighters had trouble extinguishing the battery fire, and at one point called Tesla to ask how to put the fire out. It’s unknown whether they had been able to reach anyone at the company, but the fire was eventually extinguished.
Battery fires do not occur in all EV crashes, usually only in more severe ones or when the underside of the car is somehow punctured. Tesla and several other automakers have sent instructions to first responders on putting out battery fires, but it’s still common for fire crews to try several different methods to extinguish a battery fire before letting it burn itself out.
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