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Tesla CEO Elon Musk responds to Texas crash in investigation into two deaths

Musk said "autopilot was not enabled," but Texas authorities said "no one was driving the car."
Tesla CEO Elon Musk speaks at the E3 gaming convention in Los Angeles on June 13, 2019.
Tesla CEO Elon Musk speaks at the E3 gaming convention in Los Angeles on June 13, 2019.Mike Blake / Reuters file

Tesla co-founder and CEO Elon Musk spoke out Monday after authorities said "no one was driving" one of the company's cars when it crashed into a tree in Texas over the weekend, killing two passengers.

Deputies responded to a crash Saturday at 11:25 p.m. near The Woodlands, about 30 miles north of Houston, Mark Herman, the Harris County Precinct 4 constable, said Sunday. The vehicle, a 2019 Tesla Model S, was driving at high speed when it ran off the road, hit a tree and burst into flames, he said.

Musk tweeted Monday that data logs showed that "autopilot was not enabled" in the car and that it did not have full self-driving capabilities, or FSD, a $10,000 add-on feature that allows vehicles to self-park and automatically change lanes on highways.

According to the company's website, Tesla said that its autopilot and FSD capabilities do not make its vehicles fully autonomous and that drivers are advised to keep their hands on the wheel at all times.

Herman told Reuters on Monday that Musk's tweet was the first that officials had heard from Tesla. Authorities will serve search warrants on Tesla on Tuesday to obtain and secure data from the vehicle, he said.

A preliminary investigation suggested that "no one was driving the car" when the accident occurred, Herman told NBC affiliate KPRC of Houston on Sunday. One person was in the passenger seat and another was in the rear seat, he said.

Authorities identified the victims as men ages 69 and 59. Their names had not been released as of Tuesday morning.

Deputies used more than 30,000 gallons of water to extinguish the flames because the vehicle's battery kept reigniting the fire, Herman said. At some point during the fire, which Herman said lasted for about four hours, the responding officers had to call Tesla to determine how to put out the flames.

Tesla did not respond to multiple requests for comment Tuesday.

The National Transportation Safety Board and the National Highway Transit Safety Administration said they were investigating.

The NHTSA said it has launched 28 investigations into Tesla vehicle crashes.

In 2018, a 38-year-old driver was killed in Mountain View, California, when a Tesla Model X that was on autopilot crashed into a concrete divider and caught fire. The company said at the time that no action had been taken by the driver, who had a 5-second view of the concrete divider.

And in 2016, a 40-year-old driver in Florida was killed in a Tesla Model S on autopilot that failed to stop when a tractor-trailer made a left turn in front of it.