Tesla Investigating Fatal Model X Crash, Releases Statement
It is unknown if Autopilot played a role in the accident.
Tesla is not having a great month so far. Among slipping stock prices and delays surrounding its coveted Model 3 electric sedan, it seems that the California-based manufacturer can't catch a break. An accident which claimed the life of a Model X driver put Tesla in the hot seat as accusations of an autopilot malfunction swirled around the internet. In a statement made by the automaker, it defends the autopilot's ability to safely navigate and offers assistance to authorities to investigate the crash.
Last Friday, a Model X collided head-on with a safety barrier on Route 101 in California. The SUV became engulfed in flames after its battery packs caught fire following the collision, prompting Tesla to send a team of engineers to the crash site to help remove the battery pack from the vehicle after firefighters extinguished the blaze. Tesla would go on to acknowledge that the accident was so devastating the company had "never seen this level of damage to a Model X in any other crash," especially given its high safety rating. Tesla goes on to accredit the severity of the accident on a crash cushion that had undergone previous damage and was not replaced prior to the accident.
The National Transportation Safety Board is now reportedly involved with an investigation prompted by the accident. In a communication to The Verge, a spokesperson for the NTSB noted that it performed a field investigation related to the post-crash fire, but there was no mention of an investigation over Tesla's Autopilot feature regarding the crash. The board had previously investigated a fatal accident in 2016 and noted that Autopilot's lack of "system safeguards" played a role. At this time, however, there is no evidence suggesting that Autopilot had any involvement with this particular collision.
Tesla stated in a blog post that it was taking proactive steps to work with authorities in obtaining the data from the crashed Model X so it can better understand the details that occurred before the accident. The automaker also notes that other drivers have engaged Autopilot roughly 85,000 times on that particular stretch of road, 20,000 of which occurred since the beginning of 2018 alone. With both Tesla and relevant authorities investigating the crash, it is crucial that the cause of the accident be determined, especially as autonomy is under fire after a self-driving Uber struck and killed a pedestrian only weeks ago.
"Safety is at the core of everything we do and every decision we make," Tesla's blog post read, "So the loss of a life in an accident involving a Tesla vehicle is difficult for all of us."