Investigations opened in the United States after the fatal crash of a seemingly driverless Tesla

Two U.S. transportation safety agencies said on Monday (April 19) that they had launched investigations into the fatal Tesla crash in Texas last weekend. The vehicle was traveling at high speed when it crashed into a tree in Spring, near Houston on Saturday night, and caught fire, destroying it entirely. Initial evidence from the preliminary investigation by local police shows that no one was driving the vehicle, a Harris County police official told local media. According to him, the authorities found only two individuals, one in the passenger seat and the other in the back seat. Both died in the crash.

The US road safety agency, NHTSA, has “Immediately launched a special investigation team”, according to a message sent Monday to Agence France-Presse.

“We are actively discussing with local law enforcement and Tesla to learn more about the details of the crash and will take appropriate action when we have more information. “

The National Bureau of Transportation and Safety of the United States (NTSB), for its part, said on Twitter that it had sent two investigators to the scene. They will focus “On the operation of the vehicle and the fire which followed the collision”.

Necessary supervision

The circumstances of the accident sparked many reactions, reigniting the debate on the semi-autonomy capabilities existing in Tesla, that is to say the Autopilot software, which allows the car to park. ” alone “ or to adapt the navigation on the motorway. Some people may buy a more expensive version, called “FSD”, for full self driving, (complete autonomous driving, in French), even if the driver is not supposed to let go of the wheel.

“At this point, the driving data collected shows that Autopilot was not activated and that this car had not purchased the FSD”, reacted Elon Musk, the boss of Tesla, on Twitter Monday. “In addition, the standard Autopilot needs lane demarcation lines on the road to be activated and this street did not have any”, he added, responding to an article in Wall Street Journal which mentioned the doubts of many experts about the potentially risky addition of these features to misleading names.

Local investigators had not yet determined on Sunday whether the driver’s seat airbag had deployed and whether the vehicle’s driver assistance system was engaged at the time of the collision.

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Active supervision required

On its website, Tesla warns that driver assistance systems do not make the vehicle autonomous and that active supervision of a driver remains necessary. Elon Musk, however, regularly praises the advances made by his group in driver assistance technologies.

A few hours before the accident on Saturday, he referred on Twitter to a quarterly count made by the group, commenting: “Tesla vehicles driving with Autopilot engaged are now almost ten times less likely to have an accident than a normal vehicle. “

Tesla shares lost 3.7% on the New York Stock Exchange on Monday as a result of the crash.

Read also Tesla to recall 158,000 cars over safety issue

The World with AFP

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