May 18, 2022

Botu Linum

The Car & Automotive Devotees

Fiery Tesla crash in Spring came after driver mashed accelerator, NTSB says evidence shows

2 min read

The driver of a Tesla involved in a fiery April crash in Spring was pressing the car’s accelerator shortly before impact and was buckled into the front seat of the car despite earlier reports to the contrary, federal investigators reported Thursday.

“The driver was applying the accelerator in the time leading up to the crash,” investigators with the National Transportation Safety Board wrote in an update to the incident, posted Thursday morning. “Application of the accelerator pedal was found to be as high as 98.8 percent.”

The April 17 crash occurred less than 600 feet from where Dr. William Varner, 59, and Everette Talbot, 69, began their trip in Varner’s driveway along Hammock Dunes Place in the doctor’s 2019 Model S. Both men were killed in the crash and related fire that significantly damaged the car.

In the five seconds leading up to the crash, the car reached a top speed of 67 mph on a street with a posted speed limit of 30 mph, NTSB investigators said, based on analysis of the crash scene and the car’s onboard computer.

Investigators also said numerous signs point to both Varner and Talbot being in the front seats of the car and wearing the seat belts. The findings contradict statements by Pct. 4 Constable Mark Herman, who said his investigators believed the driver’s seat was unoccupied.

In a statement late Thursday, Herman said the crash investigation by his office “is still open and active.” The statement only acknowledged constable officials are “aware” of the NTSB report.

The NTSB also confirmed statements by Tesla officials, including founder Elon Musk, that the steering wheel in the crash showed signs of an impact, indicating someone was in the driver’s seat.

The crash and fire received enormous attention and speculation because it involved a Tesla equipped with some form of automated driving. Various drivers have shown the autopilot functions of Teslas can be tricked, leading some to complain the company does not do enough to ensure motorists use the systems responsibly.

In the case of the Spring crash, NTSB investigators seconded Tesla’s finding that the vehicle’s cruise control could be used, but its auto-steering functions could not because the road lacked paint lines to divide lanes.

Investigators, however, said further study could alter their conclusions.

“All aspects of the crash, including Tesla’s advanced driver assistance system, the post-crash fire, occupant egress, and results of the driver’s toxicological tests, remain under investigation,” officials wrote.

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