Paris Taxi Company Suspends Fleet of Model 3s After Deadly Accident, but Tesla Denies Any Responsibility

Tesla’s Autopilot and Full Self-Driving Beta technologies are in the news again. A Paris taxi firm has temporarily stopped using over thirty Tesla Model 3 cars in its fleet after an accident resulted in one fatality and twenty injuries earlier in December. According to a source close to the investigation, three of those injured are in serious condition. While the investigation continues, early findings indicated the crash resulted from a technical error. Tesla disagrees.

A fatal accident in Paris with a Tesla Model 3

Red Telsa sign with Tesla written in white.
Tesla sign | Getty Images

The accident involved a driver for leading Paris taxi company G7. The firm’s Deputy Chief Executive, Yann Ricordel, reported that the accident happened when an off-duty taxi driver took his family to a restaurant. The driver stopped the car at a red light, but the car unexpectedly accelerated. It hit a cyclist, who later died, and dragged him and caused the injury of many others.

According to Reuters, the car hit three pedestrians and a cyclist before crashing into a white van. According to eyewitnesses, video surveillance, and his testimony, the driver tried to hit other nearby obstacles to slow the vehicle. Witnesses say it hit a string of pay-to-ride bicycles, metal posts, and a recycling bin filled with glass.

Video of the scene, obtained by Reuters, shows the wrecked black Tesla with debris scattered along the surrounding street. The left side of the car was smashed with the front left wheel collapsed and its windshield shattered.

A technical fault?

In a statement on Twitter, Jerome Coumet, mayor of Paris’ 13th arrondissement, said an early investigation suggested that the accelerator might have gotten stuck. In light of that, Ricordel explained the suspension of Model 3 from the firm’s fleet is a safety precaution pending the end of the investigation.

According to France’s transport minister Jean-Baptiste Djebbari, there was no evidence to support claims that a technical problem caused the crash. Djebbari spoke with the chief executive of Tesla Europe, who informed him that there were no current Model 3 safety alerts at the time. The minister went on to say that the automaker, which collects complex data from cameras and sensors on its vehicles, sent all relevant data to investigators.

It’s not the first time there have been safety concerns about Tesla vehicles. The U.S. auto safety regulator opened a formal review last year into more than 200 complaints about sudden unanticipated acceleration in Tesla vehicles. No defects were found. It was concluded that the accidents resulted from “pedal misapplication.”

With a market value of almost $1 trillion, Tesla is currently leading the charge of the EV and self-driving vehicle revolution. The Model 3 was the top-selling car in Europe in September, a first for an EV.

Philip Koopman, an electrical and computer engineering professor at Carnegie Mellon University, said in a recent blog post that French investigators need to take a close look at the Model 3’s software. He explained that the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) didn’t factor software defects into its Tesla investigation.

Tesla CEO Elon Musk has tirelessly defended Autopilot. In an April tweet, he stated that Tesla vehicles with Autopilot engaged were almost ten times less likely to be in an accident than the average vehicle. This week, Tesla told the French government that there was no evidence that the fatal Paris accident involving a Model 3 taxi resulted from a technical flaw.

The aftermath of the Tesla accident

According to a police source, it’s not clear if the Model 3 was in autopilot mode at the time of the crash.

According to CNN, the driver’s alcohol test came back negative, and an investigation into involuntary homicide by the driver has commenced. 

G7 suspended its use of 37 Model 3 cars in its fleet following the accident involving one of its drivers. One of the biggest taxi companies in Paris, G7 has 9,000 affiliated drivers who independently operate their own vehicles. Half the company’s fleet is either hybrid or EVs, in keeping with the company’s goal of a 100% green fleet by 2027.

Owners of the suspended Tesla Model 3 in the G7 fleet will be fully compensated for the loss of earnings until the investigation is complete, according to Ricordel. G7 is also searching for alternatives for these drivers so they can get back to work soon.

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