HOUSTON – An investigation conducted by Tesla over the past week indicates someone was likely in the driver’s seat of a car that crashed near The Woodlands and killed two people, a representative of the company said Monday.
The assertion about the fiery April 17 crash that killed Dr. William Varner and his friend, Everette Talbot, was made during a corporate quarterly earnings call.
While answering a question about how public relations are being handled regarding the crash, Tesla CEO Elon Musk called stories about autopilot being used by the vehicle in question “completely false.” In the days that followed the crash, Musk said in a tweet that “autopilot was not enabled.”
A representative of the company continued the answer by saying Tesla had conducted a study with authorities over the past week to determine what led to the crash.
“What we have learned from that effort was that auto-steer did not and could not engage on the road condition, as it was designed,” the spokesman said.
The vehicle was traveling at about 30 mph before it was disengaged and brought to a stop when the driver’s seat belt was unbuckled, according to the spokesman. He said an examination of the vehicle also revealed details regarding who was possibly in the vehicle.
“The steering wheel was indeed deformed, leading to a likelihood that someone was in the driver’s seat at the time of the crash,” the company representative said during the call.
Tesla is still waiting to get data that was recorded onboard the vehicle, the spokesman said. That data is being retrieved by local authorities, according to the company.
Harris County Precinct 4 Constable Mark Herman has maintained that “no one was driving” the fully electric 2019 Tesla at the time of the crash. KPRC 2 has asked Herman for a comment regarding the statements made by Musk and the Tesla representative. Outside of confirming the investigation is ongoing, he is not commenting at this time.
Both the National Transportation Safety Board and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration are investigating the crash. A spokesman for the NTSB said the agency’s investigators left the Houston area on Sunday and that they hope to release a preliminary report within the next two months.