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Tesla crash kills two as autopilot system again under suspicion

Image credit: reuters

Two men being transported in a Tesla and believed to have been relying on its driverless abilities have died in a crash in Texas, US.

According to Sgt. Cinthya Umanzor of the Harris County Constable Precinct 4, no one was in the driving seat at the time of the incident.

While some Tesla vehicles have been given a limited degree of driverless functionality, such as the ability to control steering and acceleration, they are only rated as having 'level 2' autonomy, which means a driver must be ready to take the wheel at all times.

The vehicle reportedly crashed after losing control while trying to take a curve at high speed.

It burst into flames after the crash and first responders were forced to use 30,000 gallons of water for over four hours before the fire was extinguished.

Unlike conventional internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicles, the batteries inside electric cars can continuously reignite themselves after an accident. Tesla simply recommends that firefighters allow such an incident to burn itself out.

After the fire was extinguished, authorities located two occupants in the vehicle, with one in the front passenger seat of the Tesla and the other in the back seat.

This is not the first time such an incident has occurred, with numerous crashes taking place as far back as 2016 due to passengers placing too much faith in the autonomous driving feature.

Tesla founder Elon Musk has previously rejected calls from safety engineers to include better safety monitoring tech such as eye-tracking cameras or steering wheel sensors, believing them to be ineffective.

The US auto safety agency said in March this year that it has opened 27 investigations into crashes of Tesla vehicles; at least three of the crashes have occurred recently.

In January, Musk said that he expects huge profits from his firm’s self-driving software, saying he is “highly confident the car will be able to drive itself with reliability in excess of human [sic] this year.”

A study in December 2020 found that drivers of automated vehicles routinely become overly reliant on the technology and will stop looking at the road against guidelines.

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