Two men have died after the Tesla vehicle they were riding in, which was found to not have a driver, crashed into a tree in Texas on 19 April 2020.

car crash tesla
Credit: KHOU 11

Television station KHOU-TV reported that the vehicle, a 2019 Tesla Model S, failed to negotiate a curve and went off the roadway. After which, it crashed into a tree and burst into flames.

Sergeant Cinthya Umanzor of the Harris County Constable Precinct 4 said that no one was discovered in the vehicle’s driver’s seat; one occupant was in the front passenger’s seat while the other, a Memorial Herman doctor, was in the back seat when the bodies were found. This indicates that no one was driving the Tesla on the night the accident happened.

Tesla CEO Elon Musk, in response, tweeted on 20 April 2021 that the vehicle’s data logs showed that its autopilot or self-driving system was not enabled and did not have the feature to do so in the first place. He then added that the vehicle’s self-driving system required lane lines to turn on, “which the street did not have.”

Tesla previously stated that its vehicles’ autopilot and Full Self-Driving Capacity should only be used when a fully attentive driver with their hands on the wheel is supervising the car’s autonomous decisions. This is to correct the car should it make a wrong decision.

This specific crash is another addition to the current number of crashes the US’ National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is investigating. The administration had previously finished four of its 27 open investigations that involve Tesla vehicle crashes, Reuters reported.

It was reported in January 2021 that Tesla was targeting their Full Self-Driving system to be capable of Level 5 autonomy by the end of 2021. A car having Level 5 autonomy means it’s safer to have a car in autopilot mode than have someone drive it, with no need for human interactions. At the time, however, Tesla’s autopilot mode was in its beta stage and isn’t even reliably Level 3 autonomous – a car that is becoming automated enough to detect its surroundings and speed past a slow-moving vehicle, but not enough to not need a human overriding it.


Written by John Paul Joaquin