Tesla with 'no one' driving crashes, killing two

Tesla with 'no one' driving crashes, killing two

The wreckage of a Tesla vehicle are seen after it crashed in The Woodlands, Texas, on Saturday, in this still image from video obtained via social media. (Scott J. Engle via Reuters)
The wreckage of a Tesla vehicle are seen after it crashed in The Woodlands, Texas, on Saturday, in this still image from video obtained via social media. (Scott J. Engle via Reuters)

A Tesla electric car that "no one" appeared to be driving crashed late Saturday in Texas, erupting into flames and killing the two passengers, according to local authorities.

One victim was found in the front passenger seat of a 2019 Model S and the other was in the rear, Harris County Precinct 4 constable Mark Herman said in a telephone interview. The car ran into a tree north of Houston after travelling at high speed and failing to navigate a turn.

The position of the victims, statements and other physical evidence suggest that "no one was driving the vehicle at the time of impact", Herman said. "It’s still under investigation.”

Herman said his office is coordinating with federal authorities, without specifying which ones, and didn’t know whether the Autopilot feature was engaged. It took more than 113,562 liters of water to extinguish the fire, which burned for four hours, he added.

Tesla didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment Sunday. The company’s shares fell as much as 2% in US pre-market trading on Monday.

Federal officials have criticised Tesla for fire risks related to the battery packs in its cars and for not doing enough to keep drivers from using its driver-assist function inappropriately.

In a hearing last year, the National Transportation Safety Board’s chairman said that "it’s time to stop enabling drivers in any partially automated vehicle to pretend that they have driverless cars."

NTSB, which has investigated numerous previous Tesla crashes, isn’t planning on opening a new probe into the latest incident, spokesman Chris O’Neil said.

Tesla CEO Elon Musk has defended the safety record of his company’s vehicles. This week, he shared a report on Twitter, saying that a Tesla with Autopilot engaged is now approaching a "10 times lower" chance of an accident than an average vehicle.

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