The fatal result is not pretty.
An equally unusual and tragic crash last April in Texas that claimed two lives has taken an interesting turn during the investigation. Two men, aged 59 and 69, decided to take a 2019 Tesla Model S out for a test drive in Houston one evening. The vehicle's Autopilot system was not engaged. The Model S somehow ended up going into the woods and smashed into a tree at a high speed. It immediately burst into flames and the two men were killed. It took firefighters 30,000 gallons of water to extinguish the hours-long blaze.
But tragedy quickly became a mystery because neither of the victims was found in the driver's seat; one was in the front passenger seat while the other sat in the back leaf seat. Today, there's an update from investigators.
According to Reuters, the rear seat victim, identified as William Varner, had 0.151 g/100ml of ethanol detected in his blood following the crash. That's grain alcohol or, as some might prefer to call it, rocket fuel. The legal blood limit in the Lone Star state is 0.08 percent. The autopsy report states Varner's death was the result of "blunt force trauma and thermal injuries with smoke inhalation." No information is available regarding the BAC of the front seat victim.
Police refused to comment on the report, stating the investigation is still ongoing. The mystery of why no one was in the driver's seat remains though many suspect they were attempting to test Autopilot's capabilities, a system they might have forgotten to turn because one or both were drunk.
In recent months, there have been instances where Tesla drivers purposely sat in the rear seat with Autopilot engaged, a highly illegal act one guy even filmed multiple times. Autopilot is also the subject of a major investigation currently underway by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).
The government agency has opened 33 investigations into Tesla-related crashes (including 11 fatalities) since 2016 when the driver-assist system was activated. The unusual Texas crash is also being examined by the feds. It's possible these two men mistakenly believed Autopilot had been turned on and is capable of doing more than intended, alcohol-induced behavior aside. If so, they paid for that mistake with their lives.