A 53-year-old man died Wednesday after his Tesla Model S crashed into a tree and burst into flames on a highway about 25 miles south of Amsterdam. Technical personnel from the company joined Dutch investigators at the scene “to establish the facts of the incident,” including to confirm whether the car’s Autopilot feature was engaged at the time.
A Tesla spokesperson reportedly said: “We are undertaking a full investigation and will share our findings as soon as possible.”
While there has been no other official public statement from the company so far, Dana Hull, a reporter for Bloomberg, said on her Twitter page that Tesla confirmed the car’s self-driving feature “was not engaged at any time.”
— Dana Hull (@danahull) September 8, 2016
The cause of the accident in the Netherlands is still not known. Firefighters at the scene reportedly took hours to remove the body from the car, because they were not sure if touching the car would electrocute them. Part of the vehicle’s battery had broken off and caught fire, while the rest of the battery was still in the car. It was only after Tesla personnel arrived, about five hours after the crash, that it was judged safe to cut the body free from the wreckage.
Tesla’s Autopilot received flak earlier this year after a driver in Florida died in May when he wasn’t paying attention to the road and the self-driving system failed to notice a white tractor trailer against a bright sky. In its defense, Tesla said it specifically asked drivers not to take their eyes off the road even when using Autopilot. Even the driver, Joshua Brown, had praised the Model S as “hands down the best car I have ever owned” as recently as April, and extolled the Autopilot feature.
Shares of Tesla Motors were down 0.55 percent on Nasdaq during Wednesday trade, but gained 0.12 percent after hours.