The National Transportation Safety Board has issued the preliminary report for its ongoing investigation of the fatal, April 17, 2021, crash of a 2019 Tesla Model S near Spring, Texas.
Information in the report is preliminary and subject to change as the investigation progresses and as such, no conclusions about the cause of the crash should be drawn from the report.
The report states the Model S P100D car was equipped with “Autopilot” – Tesla’s advanced driver assistance system. This system 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 Autosteer was not available on the part of the road (Hammock Dunes Place) where the crash happened.
According to the report the crash trip began at the owner’s residence. Footage from the owner’s home security cameras show the owner entering the driver’s seat and the passenger entering the front passenger seat. The video also shows the car slowly entering the roadway and then accelerating down the road away from the camera and out of sight. Based on examination of the accident scene investigators have determined the car traveled 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 post-crash fire destroyed the car’s onboard data storage device and damaged the car’s restraint control module. The damaged module was recovered and taken to the NTSB’s recorder laboratory for evaluation. Restraint control modules can record data associated with vehicle speed, seat belt status, acceleration and airbag deployment.
The steering wheel from the Tesla was shipped to the NTSB materials laboratory for analysis of the damage to the steering wheel investigators observed during the post-crash inspection.
The 59-year-old owner and a 69-year-old passenger died in the crash.
The NTSB’s investigation of the crash is ongoing, and investigators continue to gather information including data to analyze the crash dynamics, postmortem toxicology test results, seat belt use, occupant egress and the post-crash fire.