- The Tesla crash in Texas that killed two people has raised a question of whether anyone was driving.
- While the police say nobody was in the front seat, Elon Musk says Autopilot was not engaged.
- Here’s a timeline of what we know about the crash so far.
- See more stories on Insider’s business page.
The fatal crash of a Tesla Model S near Houston, Texas, last Saturday night has left two people dead and prompted regulators to launch an investigation.
Two men were killed in the crash in Spring, an affluent Houston suburb, after the car skipped over a curb, crashed into a tree, and burst into flames. Tesla’s stock fell 6.5% after news of the crash broke.
The deaths have prompted one overriding question, which has so far produced seemingly conflicting answers: Was anyone driving?
Here is a timeline of what has been reported on the crash so far:
2 best friends were taking the Model S out for a spin
One of the victims’ brother-in law, who was not named, told KPRC 2 that the two men in the car were best friends who had taken the car out.
There are conflicting reports of exactly when the crash happened, with KPRC 2 and KHOU 11 saying it took place around 11:25 p.m., and ABC-13 saying it was just after 9 p.m.
They crashed a stone’s throw away from where they set out
It’s unclear exactly where the car set out from, but the family member who spoke to KPRC 2 said the crash was only a few hundred yards away.
The family member also told KPRC 2 that the owner had backed out of the driveway, and then may have moved to the back seat.
According to all reports, the car failed to negotiate a bend in the road on Hammock Dunes Place, a cul-de-sac.
Traveling at high speed, it careened off the road, crashed into a tree, and burst into flames.
Relatives watched the blaze, which went on for hours
The fire went on for hours, Mark Herman of the Harris County Precinct 4 told KHOU 11.
“Normally when the fire department arrives, they have the vehicle fire in control in minutes, but this went on close to four hours,” said Herman.
The Tesla’s lithium batteries gave firefighters a much bigger challenge, Reuters reported.
The family member of one of the victims told KPRC 2 that relatives watched the efforts to put out the flames.
Nobody agrees exactly what was going on in the driver’s seat
Herman told KHOU 11 that he was sure nobody had been in the driver’s seat.
He said that one victim was in the passenger seat, and the other was in the back.
Sheriff’s deputies who recovered the bodies once the fire went out, “are 100% certain that no one was in the driver seat driving that vehicle at the time of impact,” he said.
Yet in a Monday tweet, Tesla CEO Elon Musk said that the car had not enabled the Autopilot feature, producing a mystery about why nobody seemed to have been behind the wheel.
“Data logs recovered so far show Autopilot was not enabled & this car did not purchase FSD,” Musk wrote, referring to the car’s Full Self-Driving mode.
When switched on, Autopilot keeps a car centered in its lane and maintains a steady distance from other vehicles, but does not make cars autonomous. Full Self-Driving mode automates some driving tasks, but still requires a driver’s full attention.
-Elon Musk (@elonmusk) April 19, 2021
Tesla has access to regular operational data from its cars, Reuters reported.
In response to Musk’s comments, Herman told Reuters: “If he is tweeting that out, if he has already pulled the data, he hasn’t told us that. We will eagerly wait for that data.”
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and the National Transportation Safety Board are both investigating the crash.
Tesla did not immediately respond to Insider’s request for comment.