A Tesla Model S electric car crashed on Sunday afternoon after the driver, who was reportedly speeding, lost control of the vehicle near Davie. Witnesses told the police that the vehicle left the roadway, the driver overcorrected, and the car struck a tree in the median. After the crash, the vehicle became engulfed in flames as the result of a battery fire. The driver, a 48-year-old doctor and father of 5, was killed.
The car was taken to a salvage yard, where the battery reignited twice on Monday morning, according to Davie’s fire marshal. In a statement on its website, Tesla notified first responders that these batteries can take up to 24 hours to extinguish, and they may be better off letting the battery burn itself out, if they can protect nearby buildings from exposure to the fire.
In a statement regarding this incident, Tesla said that it is deeply saddened and is cooperating with Davie police. “We understand that speed is being investigated as a factor in this crash, and know that high-speed collisions can result in a fire in any type of car, not just electric vehicles,” Tesla said.
One potential issue with Tesla crashes has been drivers’ misuse of the advance driver system, which Tesla has referred to as the “autopilot.” Unlike a true autopilot, however, Tesla’s advance driver system requires the driver to be alert, with hands on the wheel, and ready for unexpected events. Some drivers have apparently assumed that they could turn their vehicles entirely over to the autopilot feature and have run into trouble when the system can’t cope with changed conditions.
According to a spokesperson for the Davie police, we may not know for months whether this particular driver was using the advance driver system.
Interestingly, the National Transportation Safety Board has declined to investigate this crash, which is the second crash in Florida in which a Tesla burst into flames. Later this year, the agency is expected to issue reports on several other fires and crashes involving Teslas.
Semi-autonomous and self-driving vehicles are quickly arriving on the scene and changing fast. They offer a lot of bells and whistles, and may ultimately be safer than vehicles directed completely by humans. That said, it seems clear that there are still kinks to be worked out. Batteries that engulf the vehicles in flames in certain conditions and burn for up to 24 hours are but one example.
If you have been injured or lost a loved one in a crash with a Tesla or another advanced vehicle and suspect the vehicle itself may have been at fault, contact an experienced personal injury attorney for a case evaluation.