Texas police issue warrant for Tesla crash data

Twitter post from Elon Musk reportedly refutes crash was caused by the car's autopilot mode

Tesla steering wheel

Texas police investigating the Telsa car that crashed without any passengers in the driver's seat are set to serve the company a warrant for the vehicle's data. 

Harris County Constable Mark Herman said that Telsa's CEO, Elon Musk, posted a tweet refuting claims the car crashed while in 'autopilot', according to Reuters.  

Earlier police reports stated two passengers were found inside the car, one in the passenger seat and another in the back, leading to theories that the vehicle was in 'autopilot' mode when it careered off a bend at high speed. 

In a tweet posted on Monday that has since been deleted, Musk suggested that data logs retrieved by Tesla ruled out the use of the autopilot system. So far, that is the only information the firm has put forward. 

"If he is tweeting that out, if he has already pulled the data, he hasn't told us that," Herman told Reuters. "We will eagerly wait for that data."

According to its website, Tesla's autopilot is a hands-on driver assistant system that is intended to be used only with a "fully attentive driver". It "does not turn a Tesla into a self-driving car nor does it make a car autonomous", the company states. However, reports around where the drivers were seated are also backed by additional evidence gathered by the Harris County police. 

"We have witness statements from people that said they left to test drive the vehicle without a driver and to show the friend how it can drive itself," Herman added.

The fatalities are potentially the first to be due to driverless car technology since 2018, when Elaine Herzberg was hit and killed by an autonomous Uber vehicle in Tampa, Arizona. 

Tesla did not immediately respond to a request for comment. The company is preparing to release an update to its "full self-driving" software but this latest incident will add to further scrutiny upon the firm. The US auto safety agency is currently investigating around 27 Tesla vehicle crashes - three of which have occurred in recent months. 

The crash will also reignite a debate around the safety of self-driving car technology. With neither of the men believed to be in the driver's seat, however, there is a likelihood they will be seen as partly responsible for the crash as they were not in a position to take control of the car.

Similarly, while the Uber vehicle that hit Herzberg was said to have software issues, the person in the vehicle was also reportedly using a mobile phone at the time it crashed. 

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