Authorities Claim No One Was in the Driver's Seat in Tesla Crash

Tim Healey
by Tim Healey

A crash involving a Tesla Model S in Texas killed two passengers.

We say “passengers” instead of “occupants” because it appears there was no one in the driver’s seat at the time of the crash.

At least, that’s what authorities claim.

“I can tell you our investigators are certain no one was in the driver’s seat at the time of the crash,” Constable Mark Herman, who is in charge of the Harris County police precinct that handled the crash, told CNN today.

The crash happened in Spring, Texas, a suburb of Houston. The bodies were found in the front passenger seat and the rear seat of the car. The victims were 69 and 59 years old and their names have not been released as of this writing.

The car, a 2019 Model S, apparently wrecked by failing to negotiate a curve before going off-road and hitting trees. Herman told CNN that evidence suggested the car was traveling at a “high rate of speed”.

A 2019 Model S would likely have Tesla’s Autopilot hands-free assistance system and could’ve had the company’s “Full-Self Driving” driver-assist system. Despite the names, neither system actually offers full-self driving, aka level 5 autonomy.

It’s easy to speculate that the driver didn’t understand how these systems work and a failure of autonomous systems led to the crash, but we simply don’t know the cause of the crash right now. We don’t even know if the car had FSD.

Either way, Tesla has come under fire for selling FSD as full-self driving when it actually isn’t — it’s a level 2 system, not level 5. In this author’s view, that criticism is fair, regardless of what caused this specific crash.

Telsa boss CEO did tweet claims about Autopilot’s safety over the weekend, though it’s unclear if his tweet has any relation to the incident.

Tesla with Autopilot engaged now approaching 10 times lower chance of accident than average vehicle

— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) April 17, 2021

Autopilot does require the driver’s seatbelt to be buckled before it can work.

The crash resulted in a car fire that took four hours and 32,000 gallons of water to quelch.

While the National Transportation Safety Board has not yet decided whether it will or won’t investigate, CNN reports that the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration did assign a Special Crash Investigation team to find out more about what happened.

We’ll update this post if and when further information becomes available.

[Image: Tesla]

Tim Healey
Tim Healey

Tim Healey grew up around the auto-parts business and has always had a love for cars — his parents joke his first word was “‘Vette”. Despite this, he wanted to pursue a career in sports writing but he ended up falling semi-accidentally into the automotive-journalism industry, first at Consumer Guide Automotive and later at He also worked as an industry analyst at Mintel Group and freelanced for, CarFax,, High Gear Media, Torque News,,, among others, and of course Vertical Scope sites such as,, and He’s an urbanite and as such, doesn’t need a daily driver, but if he had one, it would be compact, sporty, and have a manual transmission.

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  • YellowDuck Moss Corner (T5) at Mosport.
  • Rob Woytuck I was saying if the average vehicle weight increases the capacity of the ferry will be affected. 18 wheelers go on ferries too. It not about individual weight its the cumulative effect. Same a for any other infrastructure. Probably even affects a multilevel car park if every car in it were electric.
  • Rob Woytuck I meant overall for a loaded ferry if every vehicle weighs more by volume. Not comparing the fact pickups or electric vehicles are on the ferry but rather the number of heavier vehicles total.
  • Analoggrotto Everything wrong with Tesla + (Everything Right with Hyundai * 100) = TTAC
  • Eric @ EBFlex.... Tough!