What We Know About Last Week's Accident

We were deeply saddened to learn that the driver of a Model X vehicle involved in an accident last Friday passed away. Safety is at the core of everything we do and every decision we make, so the loss of a life in an accident involving a Tesla vehicle is difficult for all of us. Earlier this week, Tesla proactively reached out to the authorities to offer our assistance in investigating.

While we do not yet know what happened in the moments leading up to the accident, and we do not yet have any idea what caused it, here is what we do know:

  • Due to the extensive damage caused by the collision, we have not yet been able to retrieve the vehicle’s logs.
  • We are currently working closely with the authorities to recover the logs from the computer inside the vehicle. Once that happens and the logs have been reviewed, we hope to have a better understanding of what happened.
  • Our data shows that Tesla owners have driven this same stretch of highway with Autopilot engaged roughly 85,000 times since Autopilot was first rolled out in 2015 and roughly 20,000 times since just the beginning of the year, and there has never been an accident that we know of. There are over 200 successful Autopilot trips per day on this exact stretch of road.
  • The reason this crash was so severe is that the crash attenuator, a highway safety barrier which is designed to reduce the impact into a concrete lane divider, had either been removed or crushed in a prior accident without being replaced. The following image shows what the barrier looked like when the crash attenuator was in proper condition, and what it looked like the day prior to the crash, based on dash cam footage from a witness of the accident who commutes daily past this location. We have never seen this level of damage to a Model X in any other crash.
  • Google Street View

    Thursday, March 22nd, 2018
    (day prior to accident)

    Google Street View

    Thursday, March 22nd, 2018
    (day prior to accident)

  • Tesla battery packs are designed so that in the rare circumstance a fire occurs, it spreads slowly so that occupants have plenty of time to get out of the car. According to witnesses, that appears to be what happened here as we understand there were no occupants still in the Model X by the time the fire could have presented a risk. Serious crashes like this can result in fire regardless of the type of car, and Tesla’s billions of miles of actual driving data shows that a gas car in the United States is five times more likely to experience a fire than a Tesla vehicle.

It is worth noting that an independent review completed by the U.S. Government over a year ago found that Autopilot reduces crash rates by 40%. Since then, Autopilot has improved further. That does not mean that it perfectly prevents all accidents — such a standard would be impossible — it simply makes them less likely to occur. 

Out of respect for the privacy of our customer and his family, we do not plan to share any additional details until we conclude the investigation.

We would like to extend our deepest sympathies to the family and friends of our customer.

Del