NTSB – Fatal Texas Tesla Crash Shows Seats Were Occupied

Ken Zino of AutoInformed.com on Tesla Fatal Crash in Texas

Tesla steering wheel – displacement of outer rim from top right of center hub cover. Photo by Adrienne Lamm

The National Transportation Safety Board has issued an investigative update into the April 17 fatal crash of a Tesla in Spring, Texas.

The Tesla Model S P100D car was westbound on Hammock Dunes Place when it left the road, drove over a curb, and hit a drainage culvert, a raised maintenance hole and a tree. A post-crash fire destroyed the car.

Contrary to some sensationalist media reports, the Tesla was occupied by a driver and one passenger, both of whom died in the crash. Damage to steering wheel pictured was due to an impact as the Tesla reached a speed of 67 mph during the 5 seconds leading up to impact.

(Tesla Model 3 – Europe’s Second Best-Selling Car in June 21. Low Emission Cars at Record Share. Makers Lagging Buyers; US Battery Electric Vehicle Market – Progress or Proliferation? Tesla has a 75% Share. Is the Nissan Leaf a Best Buy?; NHTSA on Tesla Again for Bogus Safety Claims) The crash is still under investigation. Information in the update is preliminary and will be supplemented or corrected during the course of the investigation the NTSB said. ​


About 9:07 p.m. central daylight time on Saturday​ April 17, 2021, a 2019 Tesla Model S P100D electric car, occupied by the 59-year-old owner and a 69-year-old passenger, was westbound on Hammock Dunes Place, a residential road in Spring, Harris County, Texas, when it crashed and caught fire. Hammock Dunes Place is a concrete two-lane road with one westbound and one eastbound lane and mountable concrete curbs on either side. At the crash location, the roadway was level, with a curve to the south. The roadway was equipped with streetlights but did not have lines to define the travel lanes.

No speed limit sign​s were posted in the crash area, but the maximum speed limit for the road was 30 mph. The crash trip originated at the owner’s residence near the end of a cul-de-sac. Footage from the owner’s home security camera shows the owner entering the car’s driver’s seat and the passenger entering the front passenger seat. The car leaves and travels about 550 feet before departing the road on a curve, driving over the curb, and hitting a drainage culvert, a raised maintenance hole, and a tree.

The crash damaged the front of the car’s high-voltage lithium-ion battery case, where a fire started. The fire destroyed the car, including the onboard storage device inside the infotainment console. The car’s restraint control module, which can record data associated with vehicle speed, belt status, acceleration, and airbag deployment, was recovered but sustained fire damage. The restraint control module was taken to the NTSB recorder laboratory for evaluation.

The vehicle was equipped with Autopilot, Tesla’s advanced driver assistance system. Using Autopilot requires both the Traffic Aware Cruise Control and the Autosteer systems to be engaged. NTSB tests of an exemplar car at the crash location showed that Traffic Aware Cruise Control could be engaged but that Autosteer was not available on that part of the road.

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