NTSB: Autopilot was not a factor in fatal Tesla Model S crash

Two people died in a 2021 collision in Texas, though neither was found in the driver's seat.

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Tesla's Autopilot was not at fault in a 2021 crash in which two people died, according to the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB). In a final report spotted by Ars Technica, the agency determined that the 2019 Model S accelerated just before hitting a tree in Spring, Texas, just north of Houston. Neither occupant was in the driver's seat when they were found, leading to questions about the use of Autopilot.

Based on information provided by Tesla, the NTSB found (PDF) that the car's rapid acceleration from 39MPH to 67MPH two seconds before the crash and a loss of control of the EV was likely due to "impairment from alcohol intoxication in combination with the effects of two sedating antihistamines, resulting in a roadway departure, tree impact and post-crash fire." The NTSB says data indicated that Autopilot had not been employed "at any time during this ownership period of the vehicle." Investigators did not find any "evidence of mechanical deficiencies" that could have contributed to or caused the crash.

One of the occupants was found in the front passenger seat, while the other was in the rear. It's presumed that the driver was in the back seat because he was trying to escape. Security footage showed that the men were in the front seats as they set off, while data showed that both front seatbelts were buckled at the time of the crash — the car left the road around 550 feet from the driver's home. The men died as a result of the collision and post-crash battery fire.