The NTSB has issued its preliminary report on the fatal Texas Tesla crash that took the lives of the vehicle's two occupants last month. While the preliminary report notes that "all aspects of the crash remain under investigation as the NTSB determines the probable cause," the report did touch on several key points.
The report noted that:
Footage from the vehicle's owner's home security system showed "the owner entering the car’s driver’s seat and the passenger entering the front passenger seat". It has been called into question whether or not there was anyone in the driver's seat at the time of the crash, so it appears to be too early to judge whether or not this means anything.
It was shortly thereafter that the "car leaves and travels about 550 feet before departing the road on a curve, driving over the curb, and hitting a drainage culvert, a raised manhole, and a tree," the report notes.
The ensuing fire destroyed the car's onboard data storage device. Yes, despite the fact that Elon Musk went "all in" in proclaiming that data logs “recovered so far” showed Autopilot was not enabled in the car last month, the NTSB is now reporting that they didn't have access to stored data inside the vehicle The report reads: "The crash damaged the front of the car’s high-voltage lithium-ion battery case, where a fire started. The fire destroyed the car, including the onboard storage device inside the infotainment console."
Then the report highlights one of the main points of contention around the investigation: whether or not Autopilot was engaged. The NTSB writes that a similar vehicle could have engaged Traffic Aware Cruise Control, but not Autosteer, at the point where the crash took place:
"The vehicle was equipped with Autopilot, Tesla’s advanced driver assistance system. Using Autopilot requires both the Traffic Aware Cruise Control and the Autosteer systems to be engaged. NTSB tests of an exemplar car at the crash location showed that Traffic Aware Cruise Control could be engaged but that Autosteer was not available on that part of the road."
It is unclear whether or not Tesla can toggle the availability of these features, for certain roads, on the fly.
The report also contained a stunning photo of the "fire and impact damage" to the vehicle
The NTSB concluded by stating that the investigation was ongoing and that it was working with Harris County Texas Precinct 4:
The NTSB continues to collect data to analyze the crash dynamics, postmortem toxicology test results, seat belt use, occupant egress, and electric vehicle fires. All aspects of the crash remain under investigation as the NTSB determines the probable cause, with the intent of issuing safety recommendations to prevent similar crashes. The NTSB is working alongside the Harris County Texas Precinct 4 Constable’s Office, which is conducting a separate, parallel investigation.
Recall, it was Mark Herman, Harris County Constable Precinct 4, who was most skeptical of Musk's comments absolving Autopilot of liability last month, telling Reuters that the police served search warrants on Tesla to secure data from the Model S.
Responding to Musk at the time, Herman said: "If he is tweeting that out, if he has already pulled the data, he hasn't told us that. 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.
A reported 23,000 gallons of water needed to be used to extinguish the flames because the Tesla's battery "kept reigniting".