Tesla has shed some more light on the fatal crash and fire involving a Model X car last week. In a blog post tonight, Tesla said it’s not yet clear what happened in the time leading up to the accident. Tesla also said it does not yet know what caused it.
Tesla did note that, according to its data, Tesla owners have driven that same stretch of Highway 101 with Autopilot engaged about 85,000 times since Tesla first rolled out the automated control system in 2015. Since the beginning of this year, Tesla drivers have successfully handled that stretch of the highway 20,000 times, according to Tesla.
“The reason this crash was so severe is that the crash attenuator, a highway safety barrier which is designed to reduce the impact into a concrete lane divider, had either been removed or crushed in a prior accident without being replaced,” the company wrote.
Below, you can see what the barrier was supposed to look like versus what it looked like the day before the accident.
Tesla says it obtained the image of the more recent photo from the dash cam of a witness who regularly makes the commute. The company went on to say it has “never seen this level of damage to a Model X in any other crash.”
As previously reported, the accident also caused a fire. In the event there is a fire, Tesla says its battery packs are designed so that people have enough time to get out of the car.
“According to witnesses, that appears to be what happened here as we understand there were no occupants still in the Model X by the time the fire could have presented a risk,” Tesla wrote. “Serious crashes like this can result in fire regardless of the type of car, and Tesla’s billions of miles of actual driving data shows that a gas car in the United States is five times more likely to experience a fire than a Tesla vehicle.”
The promise of Tesla’s Autopilot system is to reduce car accidents. In the company’s blog post, Tesla notes Autopilot reduces crash rates by 40 percent, according to an independent review by the U.S. government. Of course, that does not mean the technology is perfect in preventing all accidents.
Earlier today, the National Transportation Safety Board announced it is conducting an investigation into the accident, which killed the driver and resulted in a fire.
2 NTSB investigators conducting Field Investigation for fatal March 23, 2018, crash of a Tesla near Mountain View, CA. Unclear if automated control system was active at time of crash. Issues examined include: post-crash fire, steps to make vehicle safe for removal from scene.
— NTSB_Newsroom (@NTSB_Newsroom) March 27, 2018
“Out of respect for the privacy of our customer and his family, we do not plan to share any additional details until we conclude the investigation,” Tesla’s blog post stated. “We would like to extend our deepest sympathies to the family and friends of our customer.”