Tesla said it’s likely somebody was in the driver’s seat during a deadly Model S crash in Texas, contradicting local law enforcement

Tesla CEO Elon Musk.
Tesla CEO Elon Musk.

  • Elon Musk again denied that the Tesla that crashed in Texas on April 17, killing two people, was on Autopilot.
  • A Tesla exec added it was likely that someone was in the driver’s seat at the time of the crash.
  • This contradicts statements made by local law enforcement.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Tesla CEO Elon Musk said on Monday that the Model S that crashed just outside Houston, Texas, earlier this month, killing two people, wasn’t on Autopilot – and that any suggestion otherwise was “completely false.”

Lars Moravy, Tesla’s vice president of vehicle engineering, added that he thought it was likely someone was in the driver’s seat at the time of the deadly crash, contradicting local law enforcement.

On April 17, a Tesla Model S skipped over a curb, crashed into a tree, and burst into flames, killing two people.

A Harris County constable told local TV station KHOU on April 18 that investigators were “100% certain that no one was in the driver seat driving that vehicle at the time of impact.” A senior Harris County officer said on April 19 that witnesses had suggested nobody was driving the vehicle earlier in its journey.

Tesla’s electric vehicles come with Autopilot, a feature that allows the cars to brake, accelerate, and steer automatically. Tesla tells drivers using Autopilot to remain in the driver’s seat with their hands on the steering wheel – but earlier this month, Consumer Reports showed it was possible to turn on Autopilot with nobody in the driver’s seat.

Musk previously said that Autopilot was not being used at the time of the crash. Two days after the crash, he tweeted: “Data logs recovered so far show Autopilot was not enabled.”

Read more: The electric car boom is coming to wipe out auto dealer profits. Consolidating into ‘super dealers’ may be their only way to survive.

During Tesla’s earnings call Monday, Musk said that “there were really just extremely deceptive media practices where it was claimed to be Autopilot but this is completely false.” He didn’t reference any specific media reports.

Moravy said that Tesla had been working with local authorities, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), and the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) to investigate the crash.

“The steering wheel was indeed deformed so we’re leaning to the likelihood that someone was in the driver’s seat at the time of the crash,” Moravy said.

“All seatbelts post-crash were found to be unbuckled,” he added. Tesla’s Autopilot only works when seatbelts are buckled in.

Moravy said that Tesla was unable to recover the data from the vehicle’s SD card at the time of impact, but that the local authorities were working on that.

“We continue to hold safety in a higher regard and look to improve products in the future through this kind of data and other information from the field,” he added.

Tesla also sells its full self-driving software (FSD) as a $10,000 one-off add-on, which it plans to release widely in 2021. FSD allows cars to park themselves, change lanes, and identify both stop signs and traffic lights.

Neither Autopilot nor FSD makes a Tesla car fully autonomous.

At least three drivers have died while using Tesla’s Autopilot, and the National Transportation Safety Board has called for increased scrutiny of self-driving software.

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A major Texas highway expansion project has been paused to examine possible violation of 1964 Civil Rights Act

Houston
People drive on Interstate 45 toward downtown Houston.

  • The Department of Transportation has paused a Houston-area highway widening project.
  • In the past, highways were constructed with no regard for minority communities.
  • The Biden administration is seeking to address past racial inequities in planning decisions.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

The US Department of Transportation is using a provision of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to pause construction on a highway widening project near Houston, an uncommon move that could be an early test of President Joe Biden’s commitment to addressing past racial inequities, according to Politico.

As the populous region continues to grow, the Interstate 45 highway project has been heralded as a way to reduce congestion and improve commute times, but the additional lanes would also impact several heavily Black and Latino neighborhoods, forcing residents, businesses, and houses of worship in the path to relocate.

The construction plan, known as the North Houston Highway Improvement Project, would widen the highway into three segments.

Local resistance to the I-45 project had been brewing for years, with many hearkening back to the 1950s when freeway routes were deliberately drawn to impact Black communities and divide people by race and class.

The I-45 project has at least been temporarily halted, with Transportation secretary Pete Buttigieg now at the helm of the sprawling federal department.

Federal transportation authorities in March sent a letter asking Texas to pause contracts on the widening project while they reviewed racial justice complaints covered by Title VI of the Civil Rights Act, along with environmental concerns.

The provision states that “no person in the United States shall, on the ground of race, color, or national origin, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance.”

Read more: Here are 9 hurdles Biden’s infrastructure plan would have to overcome in Congress before it can become law

In a letter written to the Texas Department of Transportation, the Federal Highway Administration cited community opposition in reviewing the I-45 widening project, mentioning Houston-area Democratic Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee, Air Alliance Houston, and the community organization Texas Housers.

“I think [Buttigieg] was engaged, interested and fair,” Jackson Lee told Politico after speaking with the secretary. “I think he was chagrined at federal dollars being used with such disregard of community views.”

The congresswoman feels that the Texas Department of Transportation “blatantly violated” the Title VI provision.

The project’s pause, which is being driven by civil rights laws, has thrilled grassroots activists and Washington figures.

Fred Wagner, an attorney and former chief counsel at the Federal Highway Administration under the Obama administration, told Politico that taking such a step was a big change.

“It just doesn’t happen very often,” he said. “For DOT to step in, potentially, and say ‘We don’t think it’s an appropriate solution,’ would be a really huge deal.”

Buttigieg, who is seeking to reimagine the country’s transportation system, also hopes to dismantle old processes that disenfranchised Americans of color from past planning conversations, especially when entire neighborhoods were destroyed by urban planners when the modern US highway network was first built in the 20th Century.

“This is not just a matter of halfway accidental neglect,” he said in a Politico interview last month. “We’re talking about some really intentional decisions that happened, and a lot of them happened with federal dollars.”

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A hospital in Houston said it could fire staff if they refuse to get the COVID-19 vaccine, making it potentially the first large US hospital to take such action

Vaccine
Nurse Robert Orallo administers the Pfizer Covid-19 vaccine in Alaska.

  • Houston Methodist Hospital is mandating COVID-19 vaccines for its 26,000 employees.
  • Managers have until mid-April to get their first shot, otherwise they could be fired.
  • The hospital said that the policy is legal under state and federal employment law.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

A hospital in Houston is mandating vaccines for all its staff, saying they could be fired if they refuse to get the jab without having reasonable exemptions.

This could make it the first large hospital in the US to make the move, a spokesperson for the hospital told Bloomberg.

Marc Boom, CEO of Houston Methodist Hospital, announced the policy in an email to managers Wednesday.

It is rolling out the policy to managers and new hires first, before expanding it to the hospital’s roughly 26,000 total workforce, per an FAQ sheet attached to the email.

“As part of Houston Methodist management, we must lead by example and get vaccinated ourselves,” Boom wrote in the email, per Click2Houston.

Read more: Here’s the simple 5-step COVID-19 questionnaire Wells Fargo is using to decide if it’s safe for employees to enter the office

He said that around 83% of employees have already been vaccinated, including 95% of management staff and all the company’s executives.

“As we move closer to announcing mandatory vaccinations for all employees, we need you to go first – to lead by example and show our employees how important getting vaccinated is,” Boom told managers.

He said that managers have until April 15 to receive at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine.

“If not, we will follow HR policy on non-compliance,” he added.

The FAQ sheet said that staff would lose their jobs if they didn’t get the jab, but that the hospital would allow religious and medical exemptions “in very rare cases.”

“We don’t know yet if a booster [shot] will be required annually but if it is, that will also be mandatory,” the hospital wrote in the FAQ sheet.

Boom said that managers would soon receive a list of all the employees they manage who haven’t yet received a dose of the vaccine.

Staff vaccine mandates are legal, and CEOs are eyeing them up

As the vaccine rollout ramps up across the US, with President Joe Biden eyeing May 1 as the day all US adults will become eligible for the shot, some employers are mulling making COVID-19 vaccines mandatory for staff.

Houston Methodist Hospital said it is legal for private companies under state and federal employment laws.

This is backed up by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, which says employers can legally require workers to get a COVID-19 vaccine or ban them from the office if they don’t. Insider spoke to six labor and employment lawyers about what rights employees have.

In a West Munroe poll of 150 C-Suite executives in January, 51% of executives said they would require employees to receive the vaccine before returning to work. Executives from East and West Coast companies said they were more likely to mandate the vaccine than employers in the Midwest and south.

Some top UK firms also plan to make COVID-19 vaccinations mandatory for staff through “no jab, no job” employment contracts, Insider’s Kate Duffy reported.

Read the original article on Business Insider

The Texas Medical Board dropped its investigation into a Houston doctor who was fired and charged with giving away expiring COVID-19 vaccines

Dr. Hasan Gokal
Dr. Hasan Gokal

  • Dr. Hasan Gokal was fired after giving away 10 COVID-19 vaccine doses that were due to expire.
  • Gokal said he spent six hours trying to find people who wanted the shot.
  • The Houston DA’s office later charged him with theft.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

On December 29, Dr. Hasan Gokal was getting ready to wrap up the first day of Houston’s COVID-19 vaccination drive when one last person drove up for a dose before the site was set to close.

It was about 6:30 p.m. and dark outside. The vaccination site was remote, about an hour outside of Houston in the suburb of Humble.

“There was no lights, no cars anywhere. So we had to wait another half-hour to wrap things up at 7:00 p.m. That’s when we were slated to stay till,” Gokal said. “At 6:45 p.m., about 15 minutes prior to shutting down, we had one more person drive through for the vaccine. This was the problem at that point was we were done with all the vaccines and we’d done all the vaccinations. Now, one more additional person comes up and we’ve got to open a new vial of the vaccine.”

Gokal says he had to puncture open a new vial of Moderna’s vaccine, which meant he had six hours to use all 11 doses before they would have to be discarded. However, with 15 minutes left before closing, no one else arrived.

An open vaccine vial and no time to waste

He asked the 20 people working on-site, all of whom said they were already vaccinated or were not interested, Gokal said. The emergency medical services crew on site had already left, and only a few police officers remained. They, too, either already got the vaccine or were not interested.

Gokal contacted the medical director of this program and a director at the Harris County Public Health Agency to let them know he was going to search for people to vaccinate. He said both gave him a green light.

“I asked her. I said: ‘Hey, look, I’ve got these doses left. Do you have anyone I can get them into? And she herself was considering her own family,’ Gokal told Insider of the Harris County Public Health Agency director whose name he did not disclose.

A week prior to the vaccine drive, Gokal said he was on a conference call where state health officials advised those working on vaccinations not to let the vaccine go to waste, and if a vial is opened they should seek out the next category of people eligible until the doses are used.

Gokal said it was stressed that no doses should go to waste.

Unfortunately, none of the Harris County Public Health Agency director’s family was eligible and Gokal began reaching out to acquaintances to see if he could find anyone who was qualified.

Gokal lived an hour away from the vaccination site. The acquaintances lived closer to him than they did to the vaccination site, so he prepared to drive home.

At that point, Gokal said, he had two options: leave the doses on-site where they would expire and be thrown out the next day, or spend the rest of his night trying to get them in people’s arms.

“So I decided to start trying to find people who might be eligible. And I remember I’ve been up since 4:00 a.m., out working all day. So I was beat and … I didn’t really want to do this, but I knew the importance of doing this. It wouldn’t sit well with me if I didn’t try to get it to the right people,” he told Insider.

Gokal began calling acquaintances “I called and I managed to get people that were known acquaintances and people who knew them and stuff. So I said, I’m basically looking for people that I thought might have — family members who are elderly or sick or may work in doctor’s offices or that kind of stuff, who would be eligible for the next tier, which would be 1B. So I managed to find 10 people who said, OK.”

House calls

When he arrived home, Gokal said two of the people he was supposed to vaccinate were waiting, one person in their 60s and the other in their 70s. He gave them the shot before driving off to another home.

At the next house, he says he vaccinated four people. Someone in their 90s and another in their 80s who had dementia. He also vaccinated their two caregivers, both of whom were in their 60s.

Then Gokal said he went to the home of an elderly woman whose neighbor had called him and said she would qualify for the vaccine. She took it.

With just three shots remaining, Gokal said he drove back home where he was expecting the final three people to meet him. Two of them were already there. One was in her 50s and worked in a medical office and therefore had greater exposure, and the other was an individual in their 40s who was taking care of a child with medical issues who was on a ventilator. Gokal gave them their shots.

“She was a sole caregiver. She didn’t allow anyone else in the house because of the fear of bringing COVID and she herself was terrified that if she got it, her kids wouldn’t survive this,” Gokal said of the woman in her 40s.

Now past midnight, the final individual, an elderly man, who was meant to get the vaccine called Gokal and said it was too late for him to drive out, and he would find another time to get vaccinated.

With a few minutes left before the dose was set to expire, Gokal turned to his wife, who has a pulmonary condition. She was wary about whether it was a good idea.

“The reason I asked my wife was because she has been in and out of the hospital for the last 18 months with pulmonary sarcoidosis, which has left her breathless all the time. She’s on medications for it. And our own physician had told her, look, if you got a chance to get the vaccine, you must do so because you’re extremely high-risk.” Gokal said.

He said he was working in a hospital at the start of the pandemic, but switched to the public health role so he would be less of a risk to her.

“When COVID first started and I was working in the emergency room at the time I didn’t come home for a whole month, I would go live in a hotel because I was afraid of bringing it home to her,” he said.

The next day, Gokal went into the office and submitted the 10 forms on the immunizations and told his team how he handled the leftover doses. He said no one said anything.

A swift turn of events

Eight days later, Gokal was called in and fired by the human resources department. Prior to then, he had heard nothing about the incident.

“What they told me was … they asked: ‘Did you take these and give them to friends and family?’ I said, ‘Well, guys, you know what I did, I took them and found people to give them to who was eligible so that it wouldn’t get wasted and my wife was one of them,'” Gokal recounted of his interactions with an unnamed public health official. “He said, ‘Oh, you admitted, you’re fired.'”

Gokal was told that he violated protocol, but according to his lawyer, Paul Doyle, those protocols were never made clear.

Doyle said he reached out to the district attorney’s office and asked what protocols they were referencing in their case against Dr. Gokal.

“They responded to me [and said] this was a rushed event and they didn’t have written protocols in place at the time, and they didn’t have a written waitlist,” Doyle said. “So naturally, my response was and this is all in an email: ‘Under what theory are you presenting this case to a grand jury? And is there something I’m missing?’ And the answer is no.”

Gokal said he was told he should have brought the doses back to the office or thrown them away. He said he was questioned by a public health official whose name he did not disclose about why the names of those vaccinated all sounded “Indian.” He said officials were concerned they could be accused of improperly administering the vaccine.

Two weeks after Gokal was fired, Harris County’s district attorney, Kim Ogg, said she was pressing theft charges against him.

“He abused his position to place his friends and family in line in front of people who had gone through the lawful process to be there,” Ogg said in a statement. “What he did was illegal and he’ll be held accountable under the law.”

Those charges were thrown out by criminal court judge Franklin Bynum for lack of probable cause. The Texas Medical Association and the Harris County Medical Society also released statements in support of Gokal, stressing that healthcare workers should not waste any doses of the vaccine.

Gokal said the DA’s office never tried to reach out to him to hear his version of the story. He said, at one point, he was accused of stealing more vaccine vials, but a recount of those on-hand proved none were missing.

“Basically they didn’t want to talk to him. They didn’t follow up on it until after they filed a sealed complaint along with the press release with all kinds of facts that were absolutely misrepresented,” Doyle said. “It was a bizarre sort of rush to fire him and then the follow-up rush to file charges on him, without anybody understanding what happened.”

The DA’s office has not responded to Insider’s requests for comment.

No regrets

While Gokal says he wouldn’t change what he did, the consequences of his firing and subsequent criminal charges have made their way around the world and have impacted his family.

“On a very personal level. I’m OK with being attacked and having to defend myself. I’m OK. That’s part of what happens, but when it started to hurt my loved ones, that’s the first time I found myself with tears in my eyes because I realized this wasn’t just me; this was having an impact on everybody. So it’s been really hard,” Gokal said, explaining family members in Singapore, Pakistan, Dubai, and various other places all started getting calls about the news.

Harris County Public Health also contacted the medical board to initiate an investigation for unethical behavior. The department said it had no comment in response to a call from Insider.

As of Tuesday, The Texas Medical Board dismissed the cases against Gokal. On March 9, the governing body sent him a letter that said he “appeared to have administered doses of the COVID-19 vaccine to patients that were properly consented, in the eligible patient category, and they were given doses that would have otherwise been wasted,” a press release said.

Gokal is without a job until all of this is sorted out. However, he’s spent his time volunteering at a charity clinic.

“I’m donating my time to go there and see patients and take care of them while I can,” Gokal said.

“It gives me joy to do that. That’s part of what I’ve always been about anyway.”

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The top 10 places Americans moved to at the height of the pandemic in 2020

moving to texas
Six of the 10 places on the list are located in Texas.

  • Millions of Americans have requested mail-forwarding services amid the coronavirus pandemic.
  • MyMove, analyzing US Postal Service data, found that Americans moving between February and July 2020 mostly fled urban cores for more suburban areas.
  • The country’s largest winner of residents was Texas. Six of the 10 places on this list are Lone Star State suburbs.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

The coronavirus pandemic upended American life this past spring and summer, driving millions to move in search of more comfortable work-from-home locales and greener pastures.

Analyzing US Postal Service data, MyMove found that almost 16 million Americans moved between February and July. Mail-forwarding requests to USPS made in that time frame show that moving Americans mostly fled urban cores and relocated to more suburban areas.

Some moves were short-term. Temporary change-of-address requests to the US Post Office were up 27%  in 2020 versus 2019. Permanent change-of-address requests were up 2% from last year. 

Requests from the height of the pandemic largely show that Americans were moving away from cities and toward less densely populated suburbs. New York City lost over 110,000 residents from February to July, according to USPS. Chicago, San Francisco, and Los Angeles lost thousands, too.

Texas, however, gained thousands of residents amid the pandemic.

Of the top 10 places that gained residents per USPS, six were located in Texas. All were suburbs of the state’s largest cities: Houston, Dallas, and Austin.

While it seems like everyone is moving to the Lone Star State, other locations in Florida and Idaho made the list, along with a tony Hamptons neighborhood in New York state.

Keep reading for a look at the most popular locales Americans decamped to this year:

10. Meridian, Idaho

Boise Idaho
Meridian is outside Boise, Idaho, pictured above.

Number of residents: 2,088

Population in 2019: 114,161

Metro area: Boise

Read more: The great migration of 2020: People from New York and California moved in droves this year — here are the states that benefited from the mass exodus, from Idaho to Texas

9. Riverview, Florida

Tampa Florida
Riverview is outside of Tampa, Florida, pictured above.

Number of residents gained: 2,093

Population in 2019: 91,190

Metro area: Tampa

Read more: Hedge funds tour Florida office space ‘one to three times a day’ amid ‘torrential’ interest from out of state, broker says

8. Cumming, Georgia

Atlanta Georgia skyline
Cumming is just outside Atlanta, Georgia, pictured above.

Number of residents gained: 2,128

Population in 2019: 6,547

Metro area: Atlanta

7. Cypress, Texas

Houston, Texas
Cypress is outside Houston, Texas, pictured above.

Number of residents gained: 2,147

Population in 2019: 82,257

Metro area: Houston

6. Leander, Texas

austin texas
Leander is just outside of Austin, Texas, pictured above.

Number of residents gained: 2,294

Population in 2019: 62,608

Metro area: Austin

5. Georgetown, Texas

Austin Texas
Georgetown is just north of outside of Austin, Texas, pictured above.

Number of residents gained: 2,337

Population in 2019: 79,604

Metro area: Austin

Read more: Elon Musk and other tech powerhouses are flocking to Texas, pushing an already bonkers real-estate market to new heights. Take a look inside Austin, which is quickly becoming the next Silicon Valley.

4. East Hampton, New York

east hampton
Women crossing the street in East Hampton, New York on September 8, 2020.

Number of residents gained: 2,476

Population in 2019: 12,960

Metro area: New York City

Read more: The Post Office says 300,000 New Yorkers have fled the city — for places like the Hamptons and even Honolulu

3. Frisco, Texas

frisco football field
The Dallas Cowboys practice in Frisco, Texas.

Number of residents gained: 2,604

Population in 2019: 200,490

Metro area: Dallas

Read more: Frisco, Texas, is one of America’s fastest-growing cities. Here’s why so many people are moving there 

2. Richmond, Texas

Houston Texas
Richmond is outside of Houston, Texas, pictured above.

Number of residents gained: 3,000

Population in 2019: 12,578

Metro area: Houston

1. Katy, Texas

Houston
Katy is just outside of Houston, pictured above.

Number of residents gained: 4,414

Population in 2019: 21,729

Metro area: Houston

Read more: Elon Musk, like everyone else, is moving to Texas. Here are 12 Lone Star State cities America is in love with.

 

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