It’s been a while since we heard about a serious Tesla Model S crash, but apparently there’s been a spectacular one in Austria on the S16 Arlberg Expressway. The crash was reportedly so bad that there was very little of the car’s engine left after the fire was put out, but thankfully the driver was able to exit the Model S before it burst into flames.
According to the German-language Tiroler Tageszeitung, the 19-year-old driver was heading toward Bludenz on the expressway on Tuesday afternoon when she lost control of the electric vehicle while changing lanes. There was a construction site on the highway, and workers had set up concrete barriers to merge traffic from the fast lane before a tunnel. The woman lost control of the car and crashed into one of the concrete barriers. As soon as the Tesla Model S crash occurred, the car reportedly burst into flames, but the woman was able to get out of it safely. Emergency personnel transported her to a local hospital. The extent of her injuries and her condition are unknown.
Firefighters were able to extinguish the car fire; fire brigades from two towns responded with 35 firefighters and five vehicles to put it out. Photos from the Tesla Model S crash site show that the car’s front end was destroyed, and very little of the engine was left after the fire. Photos taken from the back of the car show that the back half of it seemed to be fairly intact, considering how bad the engine fire was.
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Electric vehicle fires have become a serious problem because of how difficult it can be to extinguish a fire caused by a lithium battery the size of those used in EVs. This Tesla Model S crash shows again how the EV maker hogs the headlines for something as small as an accident. The reality is that accidents happen, and firefighters will have to deal with more and more lithium battery fires in the coming years as governments in many countries continue to push drivers toward EVs through policies and incentives. Unfortunately Tesla gets the bad press when cars made by other EV makers crash just as often.
However, you can bet that it’s only a matter of time before people start asking whether Autopilot was involved in this latest Tesla Model S crash. We haven’t heard much about Tesla’s self-driving car system being involved in accidents recently, perhaps because the automaker has made some changes to it. The company put in place new safety features to force drivers to keep their hands on the wheel at all times.
The fact that this Tesla Model S crash occurred in a construction zone will only increase the likelihood that people will want to know whether Autopilot was engaged at the time. Autonomous cars rely on many sensors and maps of an area to be able to drive without having an accident, but when construction zones are involved, all bets are off because at least for now, machines can’t fully replace people behind the wheel.