Tesla Model S fatal crash under investigation by authorities, raises safety concerns
Last Monday, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and the National Transportation Safety Board began dispatching teams to investigate a violent Tesla Model S crash on April 17 in Woodlands Township near Houston, TX. , which left two dead.
The two men killed in the crash have been identified by local authorities as Everett Talbot, 69, an engineer, and his friend Dr William Varner, 69. According to an April 19 Reuters report, the vehicle “was traveling at high speed near Houston. when he failed to negotiate a turn and got off the road, crashed into a tree and caught fire ”in the Carlton Woods Creekside subdivision last Saturday night.
The Harris County Ward 4 Constable’s Office reported that subsequent small fires continued to start for hours and required rescuers to use about 30,000 gallons of water to extinguish themselves, due to the fact that the car’s battery continued to come back on after the crash, ABC13 Eyewitness News reported.
The authorities insist that no one was present in the driver’s seat at the time of the accident. A man was found in the passenger seat and another in the back seat of the vehicle when fire and emergency response teams arrived at the scene.
The cause of the initial fire, which almost completely set the vehicle and its victims on fire within moments, is still under investigation. However, there is reason to believe that the car battery itself may have been faulty. The company is still under investigation by NHTSA for its decision to release a software update for 2,000 vehicles rather than recalling them after reporting the vehicles had a faulty battery that could start fires. .
Tesla drivers have also filed numerous complaints with NHTSA alleging that sudden vehicle acceleration has occurred in a number of situations that could cause serious damage to drivers, passengers and property, such as s sit in traffic and try to park in a garage. or to a sidewalk.
Woodlands Township Fire Chief Palmer Buck said Car and driver that “this was our first experience with a large-scale lithium-ion fire” and that if the accident had occurred on a freeway rather than in a residential area with access to a fire hydrant, the situation would have been could have been much worse because the fire department trucks, “which carry between 500 and 1000 gallons, could not have continued to lightly soak the car for that long.”
The NHTSA and NTB are currently investigating whether the Tesla Model S’s autopilot system, a partially automated system on Tesla vehicles that can keep a car centered in its lane, keep a distance from cars in front of it, and change lanes automatically, was engaged at the time of the accident. “We have witness statements from people who said [the victims] left to test drive the driverless vehicle and to show the friend how he can handle himself, ”Herman told Reuters.
Elon Musk, billionaire CEO of Tesla and currently the third richest person in the world with a fortune of around $ 174 billion, tweeted Monday to challenge claims that autopilot was engaged at the time of the Texas crash. “Data logs recovered so far show that the autopilot was not activated and this car was not purchased [Full Self-Driving]. “
To date, there are no fully autonomous vehicles on the market. Yet several consumer agencies note that the marketing of its autopilot function is misleading and potentially dangerous for drivers.
Herman and other local and national officials have not said whether they received any of this alleged data from Tesla, if it exists. Musk’s wealth fell $ 5.6 billion as Tesla’s stock price fell 3.4% after news of the fatal crash hit the airwaves.
Tesla is now well known to authorities and interest groups for a number of incidents involving possible faults in vehicle software systems, including autopilot and batteries. The April 17 crash is the 28th accident involving a Tesla vehicle to be investigated by NHTSA.
Following numerous safety issues with Tesla cars, former US Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao, appointed by former US President Donald Trump, said NHTSA would review measures to ensure safety “without hampering the innovation in the development of automated driving systems ”, which means that he would consider the possibility of the most lenient regulations that would in no way interfere with Tesla’s ability to accumulate profits.
Current US Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg, appointed by President Joe Biden, has also hinted at the implementation of electric vehicle safety regulations, but nothing in his statements on the matter indicates anything either under the Democratic Biden administration would be a departure from pro-business policies. Republican Trump.
Buttigieg said last month: “I would say the political framework in the US hasn’t really caught up with the tech platforms … So we intend to pay a lot of attention to that and do everything what we can within our authorities. “
Buttigieg himself oversaw the dismantling of public transportation infrastructure during his tenure as mayor of South Bend, Indiana. From 2011 to 2019, transit ridership in the city fell by 32% under his leadership, while huge sums of money were funneled into transforming the downtown area of the industrial and mostly working-class city. into a playground for the rich.
For Democrats and Republicans alike, the interests of American capitalism play a role in refusing to seriously attack security rules. Any attempt to slow the flow of profits into the hands of ruling elites threatens America’s goal of dominating the global market for the production of electric and autonomous vehicles at the behest of its global competitors.
The NHTSA does not have much influence as a regulator and relies mainly on self-declaration by the automakers themselves, which puts the agency at the mercy of companies. A Washington post report on the crash quoted Frank Borris, a former head of NHTSA’s Defect Investigation Bureau, as saying that “the agency is in a difficult position due to a slow and outdated regulatory process that cannot keep up with the rapid development of technology. ”
Kelly Funkhouser, who leads connected and automated vehicle testing for the advocacy agency Consumer reports, said to To post, “Tesla’s numbers have been inaccurate in the past and are difficult to verify without underlying data.”
Funkhauser called on the government to oversee the production and development of automated driving systems. She says the circumstances surrounding recent Tesla vehicle crashes may indicate the company is not testing its automated driving systems and is “getting off dangerously by using the general population of Tesla owners as guinea pigs to test the system.” “.
Thursday, Consumer reports released the result of a demonstration which showed that owners of cars of its latest Model Y could easily bypass Tesla’s autopilot driver monitoring functions that are supposed to ensure a driver is alert and present in the seat of the driver when the system is engaged, by simply keeping a weight on the steering wheel.
The study found that Tesla mainly relies on sensing the weight on the steering wheel to determine the presence of the driver. It is a less advanced system than those used by Ford, GM, BMW and Subaru in their development of automated driving systems, which use technology based on cameras and warning systems to ensure that drivers drivers watch the road and mechanisms to slow down and stop. the vehicle when drivers appear to be blurry.
However, any regulation under the capitalist system will do little, if anything, to seriously address the issue of public safety in the development of electric and autonomous vehicles. Throughout the pandemic and for years before, the government has consistently bowed to corporate demands for profit interests on the health and safety of humans.
Musk single-handedly amassed a personal fortune of $ 151 billion during the pandemic, while workers at Tesla factories have been forced to work in dangerous conditions where the COVID-19 virus has spread to produce these profits. Its wealth relies almost entirely on stock prices and ruthless speculation, leading Tesla to reduce its production costs and security measures to permanently support fictitious capital.
In 2020, Musk and Tesla defied Alameda County, Calif., Orders from public health officials to shut down its Fremont plant, resulting in hundreds of worker infections and several deaths. These deadly conditions were aided and abetted by the Democratic Party, which controls the county and state, by turning a blind eye to Tesla’s illegal actions and continuing to reopen businesses and schools to serve corporate interests.