Tesla founder Elon Musk spoke out Monday after authorities said “no one was driving” one of the company’s cars that crashed into a tree, killing two passengers in Texas over the weekend.
Deputies responded to a crash Saturday at 11:25 p.m. near The Woodlands, an area about 30 miles north of Houston, Mark Herman, the Harris County Precinct 4 constable, said Sunday. The vehicle, a 2019 Tesla Model S, was driving at high speed when it ran off the road, hit a tree and burst into flames, he said.
Musk tweeted on Monday that data logs showed “autopilot was not enabled” for the car involved in Saturday’s accident and that it did not have full self-driving capabilities. FSD is a $10,000 add-on feature that allows vehicles to automatically change lanes on highways and self-park.
According to the company’s website, Tesla said its autopilot and FSD capabilities do not make its vehicles fully autonomous and drivers are advised to keep their hands on the wheel at all times.
Herman told Reuters on Monday that Musk’s tweet was the first officials had heard from Tesla. Authorities will serve search warrants on Tesla on Tuesday to obtain and secure data from the vehicle, he said.
A preliminary investigation suggested “no one was driving the car” when the accident occurred, Herman told NBC affiliate KPRC of Houston on Sunday. One person was in the passenger seat and another was in the rear seat, he said.
Authorities identified the victims as men ages 69 and 59. Their names had not been released as of Tuesday morning.
Deputies used more than 30,000 gallons of water to extinguish the flames because the vehicle’s battery kept reigniting the fire, Herman said. At some point during the fire, which Herman said lasted for about four hours, the responding officers had to call Tesla to determine how to put out the flames.
Tesla did not respond to multiple requests for comment Tuesday.
The National Transportation Safety Board and the National Highway Transit Safety Administration said it was investigating the car crash.
The NHTSA said the agency has launched 28 investigations into Tesla vehicle car crashes.
In 2018, a 38-year-old driver was killed in Mountain View, California, after a Tesla Model X that was on autopilot crashed into a concrete divider and caught fire. The company said at the time that no action had been taken by the driver, who had a 5-second view of the concrete divider.
And in 2016, a 40-year-old driver in Florida was killed in a Tesla Model S on autopilot that failed to stop when a tractor-trailer made a left turn in front of it.