Tesla Model X fatal crash is now under investigation over potential use of Autopilot and ‘post-crash fire’

Last week, a Tesla Model X driver died of due to injuries after his vehicle caught on fire in a crash on the highway in the Bay Area.

Today, the U.S. National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) announced that they are sending 2 investigators to conduct a “Field Investigation” of the accident.

According to the California Highway Patrol, a Model X hit the median barrier on highway 101 in Mountain View and it quickly caught on fire before being hit by two other cars.

The driver was taken to the hospital, but he unfortunately died of his injuries.

Today, NTSB announced the investigation and they say that it’s still “unclear if automated control system was active at the time of the crash.”

The agency already launched an investigation into Telsa’s Autopilot following a fatal accident in 2016 and it found that the driver assist system ‘functioned as designed’ but ‘played a role’ in the crash.

They are investigating the system again over an accident involving a Tesla Model S rear-ending a fire truck at a reported speed of 65 mph while the vehicle was on Autopilot, according to the driver.

It makes today’s new investigation NTSB’s third investigation into Tesla’s vehicles and the second currently ongoing investigation.

A spokesperson commented on the launch of the investigation:

“We have been deeply saddened by this accident, and we have offered our full cooperation to the authorities as we work to establish the facts of the incident.”

In a tweet, NTSB said that they will also be looking at the “post-crash fire” and “the steps to make a vehicle safe for removal from a scene”:

After the crash last week, Tesla sent engineers to assist the firefighters in removing the vehicle and its battery pack from the scene (pictures via Dean C. Smith on Twitter):

As we previously reported, nothing indicates that electric vehicles, like Tesla’s vehicles, catch on fire more often than gas-powered cars.

It’s not uncommon for any vehicle to catch on fire after a severe high-speed crash, which seems to be the case here.

But with this said, it’s still important for first responders to have a good understanding of how to approach a lithium battery fire.

Tesla recommends using “large amounts of water” to extinguish a battery fire in its vehicles and to use a thermal imaging camera to monitor the battery for at least one hour after it is found to be completely cooled:

“If the high voltage battery catches fire, is exposed to high heat, or is bent, twisted, cracked, or breached in any way, use large amounts of water to cool the battery. DO NOT extinguish with a small amount of water. Always establish or request an additional water supply.”

Tesla also has firewalls inside the battery pack that can slow down the fire from spreading between the modules.

In this case, it seems to have stopped about halfway through the pack.

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