Two men died after a Tesla vehicle, which was believed to be operating without anyone in the driver’s seat, crashed into a tree on Saturday night north of Houston, authorities said. “There was no one in the driver’s seat,” Sgt. Cinthya Umanzor of the Harris County Constable Precinct 4 said.
She said the two victims were born in 1962 and 1951.
One of the men was in the front passenger seat while the other was in the back seat of the Tesla, the newspaper reported, the Wall Street Journal reported, citing an interview with Harris County Precinct 4 Constable Mark Herman.
The vehicle was traveling at high speed along a curve before it hit a tree at night, the official told the newspaper.
”Our preliminary investigation is determining – but it’s not complete yet – that there was no one at the wheel of that vehicle,” the constable was quoted as saying. ”We’re almost 99.9 percent sure.”
Tesla and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Authorities were still investigating as of Sunday morning whether the front passenger airbag was deployed, the report added.
The ability of cars and trucks to drive by themselves is the most significant change to vehicle technology in a generation. Tesla and other automakers see huge profits from hands-free driving if they can overcome safety and regulatory hurdles.
The US government is just beginning a process that could result in new safety standards for autonomous vehicles.