Elon Musk Claims Tesla Employee’s Fatal Crash Had Nothing to Do With Full-Self-Driving

Elon Musk Claims Tesla Employee’s Fatal Crash Had Nothing to Do With Full-Self-Driving

Elon Musk is taking issue with a report from the Washington Post published Tuesday detailing what the newspaper described as potentially the first death from Tesla’s Full-Self-Driving feature in 2022. Musk claims the autonomous driving feature was never even downloaded, though the billionaire CEO didn’t provide evidence to back up his claim.

“He was not on FSD. The software had unfortunately never been downloaded. I say ‘unfortunately’, because the accident probably would not have happened if FSD had been engaged,” Musk wrote on X early Wednesday in response to a tweet from a user questioning what really happened.

The fatal car crash, which happened in 2022, involved a Tesla employee named Hans von Ohain who was driving just outside Denver, Colorado with a passenger who survived. The passenger, identified by the Post as Erik Rossiter, claims von Ohain was using Full Self-Driving at the time of the crash on a mountain road and even quotes the surviving passenger about an alleged incident just before the crash.

From the Washington Post report:

The car’s driver-assistance software, Full Self-Driving, was struggling to navigate the mountain curves, forcing von Ohain repeatedly to yank it back on course.

“The first time it happened, I was like, ‘Is that normal?’” recalled Rossiter, who described the five-mile drive on the outskirts of Denver as “uncomfortable.” “And he was like, ‘Yeah, that happens every now and then.’”

Rossiter reportedly told emergency responders the Tesla Model 3 was using an “auto-drive feature on the Tesla” that “just ran straight off the road,” quotes from the Post that appear in a 911 call from the incident. Gizmodo could not independently verify the words used in the call.

To complicate matters further, both von Ohain and Rossiter were drunk on the night of the crash, with von Ohain registering a blood alcohol level of 0.26, well over the legal limit of 0.08. But von Ohain’s widow insists it doesn’t matter whether her late husband was drunk at the time of the crash.

“Regardless of how drunk Hans was, Musk has claimed that this car can drive itself and is essentially better than a human,” the widow, Nora Bass, told the Post.

Investigators in Colorado have been looking into the crash, though information has been difficult to obtain given the intensity of the fire.

From the Washington Post:

Colorado police were unable to access data from the car because of the intensity of the fire, according to the investigation report, and Tesla said it could not confirm that a driver-assistance system had been in use because it “did not receive data over-the-air for this incident.” Madden said the remote location may have hindered communications.

Full Self-Driving has been a lightning rod of controversy in recent years. Technically, drivers are supposed to remain attentive to the road while using FSD and are solely responsible for any accidents that may occur. But the name alone gives customers the impression the Tesla feature means the car will drive itself—an understandable expectation with a name like “Full Self-Driving.”

Critics of FSD point out that its experimental nature makes everyone on public roads guinea pigs for a very new technology, whether we’ve opted in on the experiment or not. And several lawsuits have been filed across the country over the emerging tech.

But Tesla and Musk have previously defended the tech as more safe than human drivers. And that brings us to one of the big questions surrounding autonomous driving technology, even before Tesla released its FSD software: If roughly 40,000 Americans die on our roads every year, how many deaths are acceptable if everyone is using driverless cars? Getting down to 30,000 or even mere hundreds of deaths would be an improvement, but then who’s responsible when things go wrong? The expectation, rightly or wrongly, is that robot drivers need to be perfect. Again, this question was anticipated long before driverless cars became a reality.

Tesla did not immediately respond to questions emailed Wednesday.

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