NTSB finds no evidence Autopilot was active in fatal Texas crash

Tesla crash Houston
Credit: KPRC2 News

The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) has determined that Autopilot played no role in a fiery 2021 crash involving a Tesla Model S in Texas that left two people dead. In the immediate aftermath of the crash local authorities said they were “100% certain no one was in the driver’s seat,” leading to countless headlines by mainstream media that Tesla’s driver-assist software was to blame.

According to the findings of the NTSB investigation, the actual cause of the accident was likely a combination of factors including the driver’s speeding, alcohol intoxication (0.151 g/dL – almost 2x the legal limit) combined with the effects of two sedating antihistamines, and failure to control the vehicle.

Tesla crash in Houston that left two dead blamed on Autopilot, but a closer look at the details shows that to be unlikely [Update]

The report stated that in the seconds before impact the application of the Model S accelerator was as high as 98%, allowing the electric sedan to reach a top speed of 67mph (107km/h) two seconds before impact on the quiet residential street which has a 30mph (48km/h) speed limit. The report stated their was no evidence the brake pedal was used.

As for the use of Autopilot, the NTSB said it was not possible for the feature to be activated in their tests as the road lacked lane markings, confirming our reporting on the accident from 2021. The agency also said Traffic Aware Cruise Control (TACC) was able to be activated, but would only allow speeds up to 30mph (48km/h).

Not only was Autopilot not active at the time of the crash, data provided by Tesla to authorities showed that Autopilot had never been engaged in the vehicle between January 2021, when the victim purchased the vehicle, to the time of the crash.

You can read the full 13-page NTSB report below.

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