Elon Musk Says Tesla Involved in Texas Crash Never Purchased Full Self-Driving Software

Elon Musk said Monday that internal data indicates that Autopilot played no role in the fatal crash of a Tesla vehicle in Texas on Saturday.

The crash in the Houston suburb of Spring, which claimed two lives, was widely reported as occurring with no person in the driver's seat. Musk revealed that data logs recovered from the crash showed the Tesla's Autopilot feature was not engaged and the Full Self-Driving (FSD) system had not been purchased by the owner while responding to a Twitter user saying that a Wall Street Journal report on the crash "doesn't make sense."

"Your research as a private individual is better than professionals @WSJ!" Musk tweeted. "Data logs recovered so far show Autopilot was not enabled & this car did not purchase FSD. Moreover, standard Autopilot would require lane lines to turn on, which this street did not have."

Your research as a private individual is better than professionals @WSJ!

Data logs recovered so far show Autopilot was not enabled & this car did not purchase FSD.

Moreover, standard Autopilot would require lane lines to turn on, which this street did not have.

— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) April 19, 2021

The Wall Street Journal report quoted Harris County Precinct 4 Constable Mark Herman as saying that investigators were "almost 99.9% sure" that "there was no one at the wheel of that vehicle."

Newsweek reached out to Herman for comment.

Tesla Autopilot Crash Self-Driving Vehicle Autonomous Car
Elon Musk sits in the back seat of a Tesla vehicle during a visit to a future Tesla factory near Berlin, Germany on September 3, 2020. ODD ANDERSEN/AFP/Getty

Two men died when the Tesla Model S crashed into a tree and burst into flames on Saturday, with firefighters needing four hours and 23,000 gallons of water to extinguish the inferno. The men were said to have been seated in the front passenger seat and at the back of the car, with no person in the driver's seat. It is not clear how the car could have been operating without a driver or any self-driving feature engaged.

Tesla's Autopilot feature comes standard in all of the company's new vehicles. The feature is not intended to be used as a fully autonomous replacement for a driver, with the company website saying that "active driver supervision" is still currently required.

However, the vehicles appear to be at least capable of functioning using the feature without a driver behind the wheel regardless of the company's intentions. Late last year, a young TikTok user posted a video showing him pretending to sleep in the back seat of a Tesla as the car drove with no driver.

The company says that all of its new cars "have the hardware needed in the future for full self-driving in almost all circumstances." Like Autopilot, the FSD feature is not yet intended to be used as a fully autonomous replacement for a driver, although some who have purchased the option are testing a "beta" version of the software with the expectation that drivers will remain behind the wheel to minimize any safety issues.

Musk, who last month changed his official title with the company from CEO to "Technoking of Tesla," tweeted that Tesla vehicles operating with the Autopilot feature engaged were "now approaching 10 times lower chance of accident than [the] average vehicle" within hours of the fatal crash taking place on Saturday.

Other crashes involved Tesla vehicles using automatic driving features have also been reported. Last month, a Tesla using the Autopilot feature collided with a Michigan State Police patrol car, although the crash did not result in any injuries. In addition to local authorities, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and the National Transportation Safety Board are both investigating Saturday's fatal crash.