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Elon Musk says Autopilot was not engaged in last weekend’s fatal crash

The Tesla CEO has disputed a report of a ‘driverless’ crash

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Photo (c) Sjo - Getty Images
Tesla CEO Elon Musk has finally commented on the weekend crash of a Tesla Model S in Texas that local police said had no driver. One man in the front passenger seat and another in the back seat died when the car hit a tree and burst into flames.

The immediate assumption on the part of law enforcement and federal safety agencies was the occupants were misusing the car’s Autopilot feature or the new beta version of “Full Autonomous Driving,” known as FSD. In a tweet late Monday, Musk said that was not the case. 

“Data logs recovered so far show Autopilot was not enabled & this car did not purchase FSD, “Musk wrote on Twitter. “Moreover, standard Autopilot would require lane lines to turn on, which this street did not have.”

If so, that deepens the mystery of what happened to the car that left the road at a high rate of speed Saturday night and slammed into a tree near Houston. Police say that when they arrived at the scene the car was fully engulfed in flames. 

While there were bodies in the front passenger seat and in the back seat, The Wall Street Journal quoted police as saying there was no one behind the wheel. Musk later took The Journal to task for what he called inadequate reporting on the crash.

Questioning the narrative

Tesla fans also took to Twitter defending the carmaker and questioning the official narrative. One, Ahmad Dalhat, replied to The Journal article saying it didn’t make sense.

Dalhat noted that the Autopilot seat is weighted to make sure there is a driver and that hands must be on the steering wheel every 10 seconds or the system disengages. He asked The Journal to do more research, drawing a “like” from Musk.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) are both on the scene in Texas investigating the crash. Some previous Tesla accidents have been shown to be the result of the driver misusing the Autopilot feature.

In its owner’s manual and on its website, Tesla says “Autopilot and full self-driving capability are intended for use with a fully attentive driver, who has their hands on the wheel and is prepared to take over at any moment.”

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