A test car with autonomous-steering capability swerved out of its lane into oncoming traffic, killing one person and seriously injuring nine, German police said on Tuesday.
The electric BMW iX lost control at a bend, triggering a series of collisions involving four vehicles on Monday.
Five people, including a child, were travelling in the BMW, which hit a Mercedes-Benz van and a Citroen, which ploughed into a fourth vehicle, in the south-western town of Reutlingen.
“The crash vehicle was an autonomous electric test car,” police said. “Whether it was being steered by the 43-year-old [driver] or not is the subject of investigation.”
After brushing an oncoming Citroen, the BMW collided with the Mercedes van head-on, resulting in the death of a 33-year-old passenger in that vehicle, police said.
The 70-year-old driver of the Citroen lost control of her car and crashed into another vehicle with two people on board, pushing it off the road and causing it to burst into flames.
Four rescue helicopters and dozens of firefighters responded to the incident and the injured were taken to several hospitals in the region, Reutlingen police spokesman Michael Schaal said.
They included the 43-year-old driver of the BMW, three adults aged 31, 42 and 47, and an 18-month-old child who were all in the test vehicle.
Mr Schaal said police had not yet interviewed those involved in the crash.
BMW confirmed that one of its test vehicles was involved in a collision near Reutlingen, but said it was not fully autonomous.
“The vehicle has a level 2 driving assistance system that is already incorporated in production vehicles today and which can support the driver on demand,” the company said. “With level 2 vehicles the driver always retains responsibility.”
“We are in the process of investigating the exact circumstances (of the crash),” BMW said. “Of course we are in close contact with authorities.”
BMW said the vehicle was required to be marked as a test car for data protection purposes, because it was recording footage.