A Tesla vehicle crashed into a tree and caught on fire in Houston this weekend – resulting in two deaths.
The police believe no one was in the driver’s seat, which could mean that this could be the first fatalities as a result of a Tesla driver jokingly getting into the backseat.
The crash happened around 11:25 p.m on Saturday near The Woodlands in Spring, Texas.
The local police said that the vehicle was traveling at a high speed, missed a turn, hit a tree, and quickly caught in flames, leaving the two occupants dead.
Police told local news that no one was in the driver’s seat of the Tesla vehicle (via KPRC 2):
Harris County Precinct 4 Constable Mark Herman told KPRC 2 that the investigation showed “no one was driving” the fully-electric 2019 Tesla when the accident happened. There was a person in the passenger seat of the front of the car and in the rear passenger seat of the car.
The accident was reported as involving “autonomous driving or self-driving mode” in the local media:
Two men killed after Tesla that may have been in autonomous driving or self driving mode didn’t adhere to a curve, slammed into a tree then burst into flames in the Woodlands, officials say. Firefighters say they had to call Tesla to figure out how to oust the blaze. @KPRC2 pic.twitter.com/nmhDxKeTHT
— Deven Clarke (@KPRC2Deven) April 18, 2021
While Tesla does sell a “Full Self-Driving Package,” Tesla vehicles are not currently equipped with autonomous driving capability.
The current features in this package are considered level 2 driver assist features and require a driver to be attentive and ready to take control at all times.
A family member of the Tesla owner told local news that the he jumped into the backseat of the Tesla shortly after backing out of the driveway to go for a ride with his best friend.
The crash happened only a few hundred yards after the ride started.
Tesla drivers are not supposed to get out of the driver’s seat while using driver assist features like Autopilot, but some of them have been popularizing the dangerous practice on social media.
Earlier this year, we reported on a TikTok star posting a video of himself sleeping in the backseat while his Tesla Model 3 was on Autopilot.
He even posted a behind-the-scenes video on TikTok to show how it was done, even though it’s illegal to operate a motor vehicle in a manner that is dangerous to the public.
Tesla’s only driver monitoring system, which ensures someone is in the driver’s seat paying attention when using Autopilot, is a torque sensor on the steering wheel requiring someone to apply torque to the wheel.
However, some owners have been avoiding this by placing weights on the steering wheel to trick Tesla’s system.
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