The driver uses the map navigation function on the touchscreen control panel just before the Tesla Motors Inc. software update. 8.0 in a Model S P90D in New York, USA on Monday, September 19, 2016.

Christopher Goodney | Bloomberg | Getty Images

The National Transportation Safety Board has completed its investigation into the fatal accident Tesla crash in Spring, Texas, 2021. The Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Administration found no evidence that the company’s driver assistance system, which is marketed as Tesla’s Autopilot, was in use at the time of the crash.

The crash initially gained widespread attention after a local police officer said no one was driving at the time of the crash.

In its final report on the crash, the NTSB stated that excessive speed and driver impairment were the primary causes of the crash and that all available evidence indicated that the driver was behind the wheel at the time of the collision and then moved from the front seat to the back seat. car when it was on fire.

The driver of a 2019 Tesla Model S P100D was taking over-the-counter antihistamines and had been drinking earlier that night at a restaurant before crashing the car into a tree at 57 mph, according to a toxicology report filed with the NTSB. probe.

After the impact damaged the modules in the car’s high-voltage battery, the Tesla caught fire. The driver and passenger in the vehicle died of blunt force trauma and burns, according to a federal news release.

The NTSB said the impact with the tree knocked out electricity in Tesla’s 12-volt battery-powered systems, affecting the vehicle’s electronically controlled door latches. Without power, passengers would have to “find a small cut in the carpet under the seat cushions and pull the tab of the mechanical disconnect cable toward the center of the vehicle to manually open the rear doors,” the report said.

Because of fire damage, the car’s doors and handles could not be evaluated by NTSB teams, so they could not determine whether the doors were manually operated after the crash, the board’s report said.

While the NTSB provides safety guidance to federal agencies and the auto industry, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is responsible for setting new vehicle safety standards, whether it’s for battery electric vehicle technology or driver assistance systems.

To conduct part of its investigation, the NTSB relied on Tesla data, a model car and software versions provided by Tesla.

NHTSA, which is also investigating the 2021 crash, did not immediately respond to a request for an update on the investigation.

In its report on the Spring, Texas crash, the NTSB recommended that electric car manufacturers, including Tesla, create standardized manuals that would be easier for firefighters and other first responders to use when responding to emergencies.

Fire crews responding to this crash used 20,000 gallons of water to extinguish the EV fire. Although they responded promptly, they did not initially see the recommendation in Tesla’s manual to lift the car to access the battery from under the car and fill it for more effective extinguishing.

The NTSB also wrote that it “has long expressed concern about drunken driving, which accounted for nearly 30% of highway fatalities in the United States in 2020.”

It recommended that NHTSA require that “all new vehicles be equipped with passive in-vehicle alcohol detection systems, advanced driver monitoring systems, or a combination thereof, which are capable of preventing or limiting the operation of the vehicle if the driver’s intoxication is detected. “

Had the Tesla been equipped with such systems, the NTSB said the trip and fatal crash may have been prevented.

Tesla did not immediately respond to a request for comment, including on whether it might add alcohol-detection systems to its cars.

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