The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) has issued a preliminary report today for the ongoing investigation of the fatal accident involving a 2019 Tesla Model S on April 17 near Spring, Texas.
This is a preliminary report that is subject to change: "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."
According to the NTSB, the Model S was equipped with Autopilot but it was not engaged when the accident happened. The NTSB tested an “exemplar car” at the crash location and was able to activate the Traffic Aware Cruise Control (adaptive cruise control) system, but “Autosteer was not available on the part of the road (Hammock Dunes Place) where the crash happened.” Tesla’s Autopilot requires both Traffic Aware Cruise Control and Autosteer to be activated.
According to security footage from the Tesla owner’s residence, the crash trip began at the owner's house and shows the owner getting into the driver’s seat. This disproves early reports that no one was in the driver's seat. The passenger entered the front passenger seat. The video also shows the Model S entering the street and accelerating out of view. According to the report:
“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 Tesla’s onboard data storage device was destroyed in the resulting fire and the restraint control module was damaged. Restraint control modules can record valuable information associated with airbag deployment, speed, seat belt status, and acceleration. The damaged module and the damaged steering wheel were shipped to the NTSB for further evaluation.
The investigation is ongoing, and more data still needs to be collected including “data to analyze the crash dynamics, postmortem toxicology test results, seat belt use, occupant egress, and the post-crash fire.” The 59-year-old Tesla owner and a 69-year-old passenger did not survive the crash.