Tesla Gets Involved After Model S Drives Into Pond, Killing Driver

Authorities and Tesla Motors are cooperating to determine the cause of a crash that killed a California man.

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In a press release issued to The Drive on Tuesday, the California Highway Patrol confirmed the involvement of Tesla Motors and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration in the investigation of a Tesla Model S crash that killed its driver.

"Tesla has contacted the Castro Valley CHP office and is cooperating with this investigation," stated Lieutenant Stephen Perea of the CHP in the press release. "The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has also been notified and any relevant information will be provided to them as well."

The crash itself occurred sometime overnight between Saturday and Sunday according to authorities, when 34-year-old Keith Leung was driving northward on Crow Canyon Road near his home in Danville. Authorities say the vehicle left the road, plowed through a fence, and into a pond. Leung, still in his car, was not found until Sunday evening when members of the Alameda County Sheriff’s Office Dive Team were deployed to scout the body of water.

No information on the vehicle's speed at the time of the crash or the driver's state of sobriety has yet been released. Provided the Tesla's computer is adequately insulated from the elements, the car's speed should be attainable, as it has been in the numerous Tesla crash investigations that preceded this incident.

Crashes involving Tesla vehicles attract disproportionate attention from news and other media due to the heavily-marketed and highly controversial "Autopilot" semi-autonomous driving assist suite, about which Tesla CEO Elon Musk has complained via social media. The customary reaction is to ask whether the driver was using Autopilot, and from there, determine if they were doing so according to Tesla's instructions: Hands on wheel, eyes on road.

Two such high profile crashes have occurred in 2018, one earlier this month, when a woman on her phone rear-ended a fire truck at 60 mph with Autopilot active, an investigation revealed. In March, a Model X driver was killed when his vehicle—operating on Autopilot—crashed into a concrete highway divider. In that accident too, the driver had removed their hands from the wheel and had an unbroken view of their eventual impact site for several seconds before the crash.

Not all Autopilot misuse is as consequential, but all is as irresponsible. Listen to what your driver's ed teacher taught you: The phone stays in the pocket and the attention on the road.