A Tesla Model 3 car that was involved in a fatal crash in California on May 5, may have had its Autopilot mode activated at the time of the accident. A Preliminary investigation by the California Highway Patrol concluded on Friday. It's a step back from what it had confirmed on Thursday that Autopilot was definitely engaged during the crash.
According to a statement issued by the California Highway Patrol's Multidisciplinary Accident Investigation Team (MAIT) 'there has not been a final determination made as to what driving mode the Tesla was in or if it was a contributing factor to the crash'.
The incident took place in Fontana, about 80 kilometres east of Los Angeles. A 35-year-old man was killed when his Tesla Model 3 struck an overturned semi on a freeway. Besides the MAIT of California Highway Patrol, the incident is also under investigation by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).
This is not the first incident involving a Tesla car which is being probed due to possible Autopilot failure. The California crash is the 29th case being investigated by the federal agency.
Tesla has not yet responded to the findings of the preliminary investigation into the incident. Tesla CEO Elon Musk has maintained that Autopilot feature is not the reason behind these crashes, but error on part of the drivers involved.
A similar crash took place in Texas on April 17, where a person was killed. A Tesla Model S was traveling at high-speed near Houston when it failed to negotiate a curve and went off the road, crashing into a tree and bursting into flames. The incident too is being probed to find whether Tesla's Autopilot feature was engaged during the crash.
While the investigations into these incidents continue, Tesla's Autopilot system remains one of the most controversial features in an electric car and has come under increasing scrutiny. Since 2016, the NHTSA has found at least three instances where Tesla vehicles were involved in fatal crashes.