Tesla billionaire Elon Musk has hit back after investigators came knocking following a fatal crash involving one of his hi-tech vehicles.
Tesla CEO Elon Musk has hit back at the bad press hovering over his hi-tech car company this week, claiming data obtained from a vehicle involved in a fatal crash proves it wasn’t derailed by a faulty autopilot system.
The multi-billionaire jumped on Twitter after reports came flooding in of a Tesla hitting a tree late Saturday night in Texas. It caught fire on impact, killing two men and destroying the car entirely.
Constable Mark Herman from Harris County Precinct 4 said their investigation found “no one was driving” the $118,000 electric vehicle when the accident happened — one person was in the front passenger seat, while another was in the rear passenger seat.
But Musk claims the initial data accessed by the company indicated the vehicle didn’t have its driver-assistance technology enabled.
Data logs recovered from the vehicle allegedly reveal the Autopilot wasn’t engaged and that the owner of the car hadn’t purchased Tesla’s “Full Self-Driving” option.
The circumstances of the accident have provoked numerous reactions on social media, relaunching the debate on Tesla‘s existing semi-autonomous capabilities, such as the “Autopilot” software that allows the car to park on its own or navigate on the highway.
Musk appeared to be frustrated at the Wall Street Journal’s reporting of the incident, replying to a private Twitter user’s comment explaining that Tesla’s autopilot is not programmed to go over the speed limit, and features a weighted seat to ensure there is always somebody in the driver’s seat.
“Your research as a private individual is better than professionals @WSJ!,” Musk tweeted.
“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.”
Two US transportation regulators said Monday they will investigate the fatal crash. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) said it “immediately launched a Special Crash Investigation team to investigate the crash.”
The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) said on Twitter it had dispatched two investigators to the scene, who “will focus on the vehicle‘s operation and the post-crash fire. NTSB investigators will arrive in the area later this afternoon.”
Tesla warns that driver assistance systems Autopilot and Full Self-Driving Capability do not make the vehicles autonomous, and that active supervision is still required.
Hours before the crash, he tweeted, “Tesla with Autopilot engaged now approaching 10 times lower chance of accident than average vehicle.”
The accident follows a similar incident in March this year when one of Tesla’s hi-tech vehicles crashed into a stationary police car – flashing lights and all – while the driver was apparently using the controversial Autopilot function.
The Tesla Model Y slammed into the back of the police car in Michigan early in the morning, causing extensive damage to the left rear of the Dodge Charger.
There were no injuries but the 22-year-old driver was issued fines for failing to move over and driving while suspended.
The high profile crash will reignite debate about Autopilot, which some believe is misleading. In 2016 a German court requested Tesla rename its Autopilot feature to save confusion.
In selling its Autopilot feature Tesla claims it “enables your car to steer, accelerate and brake automatically for other vehicles and pedestrians within its lane” but elsewhere on the Tesla website the company warns “current Autopilot features require active driver supervision and do not make the vehicle autonomous”.
— with AFP