According to a preliminary National Transportation Safety Board report, a 2021 Tesla Model 3 was traveling 90 mph before crashing. Both the Tesla driver and passenger were killed when the car crashed into two trees and then became engulfed in fire. The Coral Gables, Florida neighborhood this happened in has a 30 mph speed limit.
NTSB made determinations based on the Tesla EDR data
Because the Tesla had an event data recorder, the NTSB retrieved about five seconds of data from just before and after the crash. The NTSB needed to repair the data chip from the EDR and then install it in an undamaged unit before making this speed determination. It said, “preliminary evaluation of the data indicated that application of the accelerator pedal ranged from zero to 100-percent, and the service brake remained off.”
Traveling north on Alhambra Circle around 8:55 PM, the Tesla first approached an intersection with a traffic signal. It “passed another car and accelerated as it neared the yellow signal light at the intersection,” according to the NTSB. The Tesla then continued on its path north going through the intersection for another 140 feet. At that point, the left front of the Tesla slammed into the first tree.
The impact spun the car 90-degrees counterclockwise before striking the second tree. After hitting the second tree, the Tesla caught on fire. The NTSB said, “The firefighters faced challenges in extinguishing the fire and reported that the vehicle’s batteries reignited at least once.” That is consistent with many EV fires and a continuing problem multiple agencies are trying to solve.
A similar California accident has a different determination
A similar accident in Saratoga, California has also been investigated by the NTSB. In that crash, the board found that driver error was the cause, even though it happened while the car was on Autopilot. The 75-year-old male driver and his wife were both killed after slamming into the rear of a minivan, then a pickup truck. A subsequent fire burned the Tesla to the ground.
At this point, the Tesla, going 110 mph, hit the minivan. From the EDR, it was found that the Tesla generated both visual and audible warnings. These were triggered due to not detecting the driver’s hands on the steering wheel. It set off the Automatic Emergency Braking mode to avoid crashing into the minivan. But the driver accelerated from 68 mph to 72 mph before hitting it.
After visual and audible warnings, the driver sped up
The driver pressed the accelerator pedal 95-percent before hitting the minivan. It left the highway at 114 mph, crashing into the pickup truck. The NTSB took on the investigation due to its interest in automated vehicle performance. It stated that due to determining driver error was the cause, it would not pursue further action.
The NTSB will continue investigating similar crashes to determine whether Tesla’s Autopilot has glitches causing these accidents. Tesla calls its Level 2 driver assistance system “Full Self Driving” though it has never claimed it can drive itself.