Tesla hits back at authorities over fatal crash, claims driver was behind wheel
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Executives from Tesla have claimed evidence from a fatal car wreck, believed to have happened while a car was in ‘autopilot mode’, actually suggests a person was behind the wheel.
The comments contradict early reports from local authorities, who said they were certain nobody was in the driver’s seat.
Tesla made the statement during an earnings call on Monday, where the company strongly fought back against the claims the car had been operating without a driver.
“It was claimed to be autopilot, but this is completely false,” Elon Musk, Tesla CEO said.
Lars Moravy, Tesla vice president of vehicle engineering, said the steering wheel appeared “deformed” which suggested the presence of a driver during the crash. The company has been working with state and federal investigators and had access to the crash site, he said.
“We were able to find that the steering wheel was indeed deformed, leading to a likelihood that someone was in the driver’s seat at the time of the crash,” Mr Moravy said.
The auto-steer feature wasn’t engaged and the seatbelts were unbuckled, he claimed.
Tesla said so far it’s been unable to recover the car’s SD card data from the wreckage, according to The Washington Post.
The 2019 Model S Tesla veered off the road after driving fast around a curve, hit a tree and burst into flames in The Woodlands, in north Houston in Texas on April 17.
Emergency responders spent four hours extinguishing the vehicle, and found two passengers dead inside. They determined neither had been driving at the time of the crash.
“Our investigation has determined that one of the victims was in the front passenger seat; one was in the back seat,” Mark Herman, constable for Harris County Precinct 4, told KHOU. He said police were “100 per cent certain that no one was in the driver’s seat”.
Tesla has at times had a strained relationship with investigators.
Last week, the US National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) said Tesla was not a part of its investigation into the crash, and the Post reports the automakers generally work together with car companies and co-ordinate on the release of information.
The findings from Tesla have not been confirmed by the investigators.