Investigators with the National Transportation Safety Board have apparently solved the mystery of why no one was found behind the wheel of a Tesla that crashed in Texas two years ago, killing two men.
The agency said in an investigative report released Wednesday into the violent April 17, 2021 crash in Spring, a Houston suburb, that the 59-year-old Tesla driver apparently moved into the back seat after hitting the bag. of front air of the car, deforming the direction. he rolls in the crash.
Although the accident raised questions about whether the car was operating on Tesla's "Autopilot" partially automated driving system, the NTSB determined that the system could not have been used on the street where the accident occurred due to a lack of lane markings. Testing showed that the car's "Traffic Aware Cruise Control" system could have been used, though it would only work up to top speed on the suburban highway, 30 mph (50 kilometers per hour), according to the report.
The 2019 Tesla reached 67 mph (108 kilometers per hour) two seconds before hitting the second of two trees at 57 mph (92 kilometers per hour) before being engulfed in flames when the lithium-ion battery caught fire.
Tesla's event data recorder showed that the throttle moved "according to driver activity" in the five seconds before the crash, and that the driver's seatbelt was on when the crash occurred.
"Although the driver's seat was found to be vacant and the driver was in the left rear seat, the available evidence suggests that the driver was seated in the driver's seat at the time of the crash and moved to the rear seat after the crash," the driver said. report. .
The agency found that excessive speed and lack of control of the car due to alcohol intoxication caused the accident. The report says tests conducted by a Federal Aviation Administration laboratory found the driver had a blood alcohol level of 0.151 grams per deciliter, nearly double the Texas legal limit of 0.08. Two over-the-counter sedative antihistamine drugs were also found in the driver's blood, according to the report.
Autopsies determined the driver died of blunt force trauma, burns, and smoke inhalation. The 69-year-old male passenger died of blunt force trauma to the torso and extremities, as well as burns, according to the report.
The agency said security video from the driver's home showed the driver and passenger getting on the front seats before leaving the house. The car traveled about 550 feet (170 meters) before going off the road in a curve, colliding with a storm sewer inlet and a raised culvert, hitting a tree before colliding with another, the agency said.