Driver was behind Tesla wheel in deadly Texas crash: investigators

Washington (AFP) – A driver was at the wheel of a Tesla car in April that crashed and caught fire in Texas, US investigators said Thursday, contradicting initial police statements.


Shortly after the crash, which killed both people in the car, police near Houston said an initial investigation showed the driver's seat was empty.

The National Transportation Safety Board, which probes high-profile accidents and disasters, however said "both driver and passenger seats were occupied at time of crash."

It cited forensic examination of the steering wheel as well as information from the car's data recorder, and noted the vehicle's seat belts were buckled during the collision in Spring, Texas on April 17.

This episode spotlighted Tesla's driver assistance systems, with Consumer Reports magazine reporting engineers "easily tricked" Tesla's Autopilot to drive without anyone in the driver's seat.

The NTSB also confirmed that the car was driving fast, up to 67 miles (108 kilometers) per hour on a suburban road in the five seconds before the impact.

The NTSB previously said security camera footage from a home showed the car's owner in the driver's seat and a person in the front passenger seat.

An NTSB report from May noted Tesla's Autopilot system could not have been engaged during the fatal crash.

Tesla had quickly defended itself after the accident, with CEO Elon Musk saying it was "completely false" to blame the car's driver assistance functions.

Local police who released the initial information about the incident did not immediately provide comment on the updated information.

The NTSB stressed Thursday that the investigation was not complete and that the elements of the preliminary reports should not lead to conclusions on the causes of the accident.