The National Transportation Safety Board has released a preliminary report regarding the Tesla Model S crash in Texas that occurred last month. The NTSB said that testing of an exemplar car at the crash location revealed that Autosteer “was not available on that part of the road.” However, Tesla’s Traffic Aware Cruise Control “could be” engaged by the NTSB during its testing.
The crash occurred on April 17th, 2021, near Spring, Texas. Initial reports indicate that the vehicle was equipped with the capability to operate with Autopilot, Tesla’s advanced driver assistance system. However, Autopilot is not available for utilization on every public road in existence. While mainstream media reports quickly jumped to the conclusion that Autopilot was responsible for the crash after claims that the Model S was “driverless,” the NTSB and NHTSA announced that an investigation would take place to determine whether the vehicle was operating with Autopilot at the time of the crash.
NTSB findings via a security camera at the owner’s home showed that the owner entered the driver’s seat and the passenger entered the front passenger’s seat. ” The video also shows the car slowly entering the roadway and then accelerating down the road away from the camera and out of sight,” the NTSB added.
The crash was violent, and after colliding with a tree, the Model S caught fire, and both occupants of the vehicle were killed. The vehicle fire was started upon impact with the high-voltage lithium-ion battery case, the report states. The fire destroyed the car, but it was put out in less time than was initially reported. Palmer Buck, Fire Chief for the Woodland Township Fire Department, spoke to the media regarding some reports that the fire raged on for four hours. This was false, and Chief Buck stated that it took two to three minutes for the fire to be extinguished.
However, the main concern of the wreck was whether the vehicle was operating on Autopilot or not. The NTSB tested a very similar “exemplar” vehicle of the Model S that was involved in the crash, and the agency found that it could not be activated where the accident took place.
The NTSB wrote explicitly:
“The vehicle was equipped with Autopilot, Tesla’s advanced driver assistance system. Using Autopilot requires both the Traffic Aware Cruise Control and the Autosteer systems to be engaged. 2 NTSB tests of an exemplar car at the crash location showed that Traffic Aware Cruise Control could be engaged but that Autosteer was not available on that part of the road.”
The agency could not recover several elements within the car, including the Onboard Storage Device inside the Infotainment console. However, the car’s restraint module that gives information on vehicle speed, belt status, acceleration, and airbag deployment was recovered but damaged by fire. The restraint control module was taken to the NTSB) recorder laboratory for evaluation, the report states.
The investigation continues, and the NTSB is collecting data to analyze crash dynamics, postmortem toxicology test results, seat belt use, occupant egress, and electric vehicle fires.
The NTSB added:
“All aspects of the crash remain under investigation as the NTSB determines the probable cause, with the intent of issuing safety recommendations to prevent similar crashes. The NTSB is working alongside the Harris County Texas Precinct 4 Constable’s Office, which is conducting a separate, parallel investigation. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and Tesla are supporting the NTSB in the investigation.”
The NTSB’s preliminary report is available below.