Musk Goes "All In": Claims Data Says Autopilot Not Engaged In Fatal Houston Wreck

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by Tyler Durden
Monday, Apr 19, 2021 - 08:30 PM

Earlier today, we reported about a Tesla Model S wreck that killed two men when the vehicle with "no driver" slammed into a tree and caught fire. It appeared to be an obvious instance where Autopilot and/or Full Self Driving could and would be the "front and center" suspect for the wreck.

The story itself also caught fire on Monday, denting Tesla's stock to the tune of 3.4% during the cash session. 

Then came what can only be described as either a baffling truth, given that nobody was in the driver's seat of the car, or an all-in moment (as one Twitter user called it): Elon Musk took to Twitter Monday to assert in a tweet that data logs “recovered so far” show Autopilot was not enabled in the car and that Full Self Driving had not been purchased on the vehicle.

Leaving out the unknown of what "so far" means and how it basically negates Musk's point, the Tweet is stunning for a couple of reasons:

  1. The fact that nobody was in the driver seat of the car makes Autopilot the "Occam's Razor" explanation for the wreck. The NY Times also wrote earlier in the day that the men in the vehicle had discussed Autopilot before leaving for their drive together.
  2. It comes off as a preemptive PR effort to potentially mitigate and/or influence the outcome of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB)'s look into the wreck.
  3. If it turns out that Autopilot was, in fact, off, the circumstances behind the wreck become even more baffling. But if it turns out that one of the regulators finds that Autopilot and/or FSD was on during (or seconds before) the wreck, Musk may need further PR efforts to repair the harm it could do to him and/or his brand. Several people on social media have brought this up:

Additionally, it has already been noted that these type of preemptive suggestions prior to investigations are frowned upon by regulators:

To get to the bottom of all this, Mark Herman, Harris County Constable Precinct 4, told Reuters that the police will serve search warrants on Tesla Inc on Tuesday to secure data from a Model S that crashed in Texas.

He was responding to a tweet by Tesla CEO Elon Musk, who said, "Data logs recovered so far show Autopilot was not enabled."

Herman appeared quite skeptical: "If he is tweeting that out, if he has already pulled the data, he hasn't told us that" Herman told Reuters. "We will eagerly wait for that data."

“We have witness statements from people that said they left to test drive the vehicle without a driver and to show the friend how it can drive itself,” Herman said according to the Reuters report.

Needless to say, This could be very troubling for Musk.

Recall, the Tesla slammed into a tree near Hammock Dunes Place in the Houston Area, a local NBC affiliate reported. The wreck was in the "Carlton Woods subdivision near the Woodlands," the report says. According to authorities, "the vehicle failed to negotiate a cul-de-sac turn, ran off the road and hit the tree."

Of the two occupants, one was seated in the passenger seat of the front of the car while the other was seated in the passenger seat of the back of the car.  NBC says it is "trying to determine whether the vehicle may have been in automatic driving mode due to the victims’ seating, but that information is not available yet."

A reported 23,000 gallons of water needed to be used to extinguish the flames because the Tesla's battery "kept reigniting". Two federal agencies will investigate the deadly crash of a Tesla Model S over the weekend near Houston, Texas, in which local authorities said no one was behind the wheel. 

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) are aware of the fatal Tesla crash that killed two, which occurred on Saturday night in Spring, Texas. Both agencies are sending investigators to conduct a safety analysis. 

"NHTSA is aware of the tragic crash involving a Tesla vehicle outside of Houston, Texas. NHTSA has immediately launched a Special Crash Investigation team to investigate the crash. We are actively engaged with local law enforcement and Tesla to learn more about the details of the crash and will take appropriate steps when we have more information," the NHTSA told local news KHOU11 in a statement. 

And the NTSB tweeted Monday afternoon that their investigation team, "in coordination with the Harris County Precinct 4 Constable's Office," will "conduct a safety investigation of the fatal Apr. 17, 2021, Tesla vehicle crash near Spring, TX."

NTSB also said their "investigation would focus on the vehicle's operation and the post-crash fire. NTSB investigators will arrive in the area later this afternoon." 

Sitting across the table from regulators, Musk has once again pushed "all in". So far, he has been able to defy the odds and suck out. Will that remain the case?