Tesla has, for years, operated with an air of impunity, thanks to lax oversight from the federal government. That has also left NHTSA with a lot of work to do. And the thing is, there are more Teslas on the road than ever, meaning it’s likely we’ll see more deadly crashes, too.
The latest was in a Model S outside of Houston on Sunday, in which two men were killed in a car in which neither of them were in the driver’s seat. Tesla CEO Elon Musk tweeted last night that the data logs Tesla has “so far” show that Autopilot was not on, and that the car didn’t have Full Self-Driving, the semiautonomous feature that isn’t full self-driving, neither thing an explanation on how a Tesla with no one in the driver’s seat ended up in a deadly crash.
That was also news to authorities, via Reuters:
[Mark Herman, Harris County Constable Precinct 4] said a tweet by Musk on Monday afternoon, saying that data logs retrieved by the company so far ruled out the use of the Autopilot system, was the first officials had heard from the company.
“If he is tweeting that out, if he has already pulled the data, he hasn’t told us that,” Herman told Reuters. “We will eagerly wait for that data.”
William Varner, a 59-year-old doctor at Memorial Hermann The Woodlands Medical Center, was identified Tuesday as one of the victims in the crash. CEO Justin Kendrick gave the following statement:
“Dr. Varner was a tremendous human being who personally impacted many throughout our Memorial Hermann The Woodlands Medical Center family over the year. Our thoughts and prayers go out to his entire family, and also to those who had the privilege of working and serving alongside him in various capacities. He will be dearly missed by so many.”
The other victim remains unidentified, but the crucial question will remain about Autopilot. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has investigated 27 other crashes involving Teslas and Autopilot, and it will be investigating this one as well, according to Reuters, along with the National Transportation Safety Board, while police in Texas will be serving search warrants on Tesla Tuesday.
This is all amid a broader push by the feds to look into Tesla, something that one never expected would happen really under the Trump administration but something you would expect Joe Biden’s administration to approach with more teeth. That might give an ordinary CEO some pause but Musk seems to be the type that only responds to court orders and acts of Congress, the latter of which, hey, might even happen this year.