Florida Tesla crash which killed two will be investigated by federal board

The Model 3 left the road near a residential intersection, collided with a tree and burst into flames, killing a man and a woman

Federal authorities will investigate a fiery car crash which killed two people in a Tesla in Florida last week.

The National Transportation Safety Board announced on Twitter it would send three investigators to look into the operation of a Tesla Model 3 which left the road in Coral Gables and collided with a tree, and the fire that followed.

“We always look especially closely at newer technology,” said Peter Knudson, an NTSB spokesman.

The crash occurred near a residential intersection. It was not immediately known if speed was a factor or if the car’s automated driving system was activated.

Police identified the victims as a 20-year-old man, who was driving the car, and a 19-year-old woman.

The NTSB said it would begin its investigation on Monday, complete on-scene work within a week and issue a preliminary report in about 30 days.

The investigation comes a month after the US government opened a formal investigation into Tesla’s driver-assistance system, Autopilot, after a series of collisions with stationery emergency vehicles using first-responder vehicle lights, flares, illuminated arrow boards and road cones.

In June, regulators said they had opened 30 investigations into Tesla crashes since 2016 in which an advanced driver-assistance system was suspected to have been in use. Of the 30 crashes, which involved 10 deaths, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said Autopilot had been ruled out as a factor in three.

In Texas in April, two men died after a Tesla Model S which was believed to be operating without anyone in the driver’s seat crashed into a tree near Houston. The car failed to negotiate a curve and went off the road, crashing before bursting into flames.

Tesla’s chief executive, the billionaire Elon Musk, tweeted: “Data logs recovered so far show Autopilot was not enabled and this car did not purchase [Full Self-Driving]. Moreover, standard Autopilot would require lane lines to turn on, which this street did not have.”

Tesla has offered guidance to first responders about battery fires in its electric vehicles but also says high-speed collisions can result in fire in any kind of car.

In California on Thursday, authorities said a woman who apparently passed out while her Tesla was on Autopilot – before the car hit a freeway wall – was arrested on suspicion of drunken driving.

Karla Villanueva, 31, was arrested in the Los Angeles suburb of Glendale. According to audio from a dispatch call obtained by KABC-TV, her husband reported that she was “unconscious in a Tesla” and the vehicle was “driving itself”.

The husband was following the Tesla in a Volkswagen, the dispatcher said, adding: “Again, apparently the wife is unconscious in the vehicle. And I guess there’s vehicles in front of it, that’s what’s causing the vehicle to slow down.”


Edward Helmore and agencies

The GuardianTramp

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