Tesla Inc (NASDAQ:TSLA) CEO Elon Musk has responded to deputies who said a Model S that crashed into a tree in Texas had no driver. Musk said their data logs show Autopilot was not engaged, and the buyer of the Model S didn’t buy the Full Self-Driving feature.
Why the Model S should not have been driving itself
Musk responded to a Twitter user who said Tesla vehicles have safety measures in place to ensure that there is a driver in the seat at all times. The Twitter user said the driver’s seat is weighted to ensure there must be a driver, and the driver’s hands must be on the steering wheel every 10 seconds to keep Autopilot engaged.
He also said Autopilot doesn’t go over the speed limit. Musk added that the data logs they recovered “so far” show that Autopilot wasn’t enabled. He also said that standard Autopilot requires lane lines on the road, which the street the accident occurred on did not have. According to Musk, the Model S didn’t even have the Full Self-Driving feature because the owner did not purchase it.
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Data logs recovered so far show Autopilot was not enabled & this car did not purchase FSD.
Moreover, standard Autopilot would require lane lines to turn on, which this street did not have.
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) April 19, 2021
The National Transportation Safety Board and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration announced plans to send investigators to check out the site of the crash in the Houston area. The Drive reports that after Musk’s tweet, local officials said they’re getting a search warrant to look at Tesla’s data logs.
Could Autopilot have been abused?
The Drive notes that plenty of videos showing Tesla’s Autopilot being abused have been posted online, casting doubt upon Musk’s statement. Such videos have shown Autopilot being activated on unmarked roads, despite what Musk said. The Drive adds that police say witnesses also claim to have seen the car driving without anyone in the driver’s seat.
Additionally, The New York Times reports that the wives of the two men who died in the crash were talking about the Autopilot feature when they left to go on a ride in the 2019 Model S. Essentially, there is circumstantial evidence that suggests Autopilot could have been engaged, but there is no hard proof that it was.
The Model S was destroyed in a fire that took hours to put out, so the onboard data may have been destroyed. Federal investigators are looking into almost two dozen wrecks involving Teslas that were using Autopilot or might have been using it.
Tesla is part of the Entrepreneur Index, which tracks 60 of the largest publicly traded companies managed by their founders or their founders’ families.