Elon Musk says Autopilot was not used in Tesla car involved in fatal accident

The company's shares fell 3.4% in trading on Monday, clipping more than $5.5bn off Mr Musk’s wealth

FILE PHOTO: SpaceX owner and Tesla CEO Elon Musk speaks during a conversation with legendary game designer Todd Howard (not pictured) at the E3 gaming convention in Los Angeles, California, U.S., June 13, 2019.  REUTERS/Mike Blake/File Photo
Powered by automated translation

Tesla’s billionaire chief executive Elon Musk tweeted a denial that the car involved in a fatal crash in Texas last week had its Autopilot mode enabled.

Mr Musk, who co-founded Tesla in 2003, also said the owner of the car had not purchased the Full Self-Driving (FSD) package that offers users enhanced Autopilot capabilities.

“Data logs recovered so far show Autopilot was not enabled & this car did not purchase FSD,” Mr Musk said.

“Moreover, standard Autopilot would require lane lines to turn on, which this street did not have.”

On Saturday, a Tesla 2019 Model S crashed into a tree in Houston and burst into flames, killing two passengers.

Officials said the car appeared to have been driving itself at the time of the crash, according to media reports.

US road safety agency the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), which investigates civilian transportation crashes, are also probing the case.

The remains of a Tesla vehicle are seen after it crashed in The Woodlands, Texas, April 17, 2021, in this still image from video obtained via social media. Video taken April 17, 2021. SCOTT J. ENGLE via REUTERS  ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE HAS BEEN SUPPLIED BY A THIRD PARTY. MANDATORY CREDIT.
The remains of a Tesla vehicle after it crashed in Texas last week. Reuters

The NHTSA said it is working with local law enforcement officers and will “take appropriate steps” after gathering more information.

"NTSB investigation will focus on the vehicle’s operation and the post-crash fire," NTSB said.

Following the accident, shares in Tesla dropped 3.4 per cent on Monday to $714.30 a share, shaving more than $5.5 billion off Mr Musk’s wealth. Mr Musk owns about 22.4 per cent of the company’s shares.

On Sunday, hours after the crash, he said on Twitter that a Tesla with the Autopilot system engaged is almost 10 times less likely to be involved in an accident than an average vehicle.

Tesla sells its automated driving systems under two brand names – Autopilot and FSD. All new Tesla cars come with the Autopilot driver-assist feature as standard and the company sells the more advanced FSD as an extra for almost $10,000.

Autopilot allows the car to steer, accelerate and brake automatically for other vehicles and pedestrians within its lane. FSD offers more enhanced features such as auto-parking and automatic lane changes while driving on the highway.

However, the company said the “currently enabled features require active driver supervision and do not make the vehicle autonomous”.

Visitors walk past Chinese-made Tesla Inc. electric vehicles at the company's booth at the Auto Shanghai 2021 show in Shanghai, China, on Monday, April 19, 2021. The Shanghai International Automobile Industry Exhibition kicked off on Monday in China’s financial hub, a multiday event aimed at showcasing the best and brightest car innovations in the world’s biggest vehicle market. Photographer: Qilai Shen/Bloomberg
Visitors walk past Chinese-made Tesla EVs at the company's booth at the Auto Shanghai 2021 show on Monday. Bloomberg

In the first quarter of this year, Tesla registered one accident for every 6.74 million kilometres driven with Autopilot engaged.

The company recorded one accident for every 3.29 million km when Autopilot was not engaged but other active safety measures were switched on.

Last month, the NHTSA said it had opened 27 investigations into crashes involving Tesla vehicles.