After a Tesla Model S crashed into construction equipment on Pacific Coast Highway, between Old Newport Boulevard and Riverside Avenue last May, questions were raised about the safety of the vehicle’s Autopilot driver-assist system. Investigators have now concluded that Autopilot was not involved in the tragic incident.
The fatal Model S crash took the lives of three people: Crystal McCallum, 34, Andrew James Chaves, 32, and Wayne Walter Swanson Jr., 40. Three people who were at the scene also sustained injuries. Reports indicated that Newport Beach police were called to the scene of the accident around 12:45 a.m. They found that the Tesla Model S had crashed into a curb and hit construction equipment.
A special crash investigation team was deployed to probe the incident. The crash also became one of the cases that were included in a probe from the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA) about the reliability of driver-assist features like Tesla Autopilot. As noted in a Los Angeles Times report, the New Port Beach crash was one of 34 incidents that were reported to the NHTSA, and it promptly drew media attention.
Yet after closely analyzing data from the ill-fated Model S’ onboard computer, investigators concluded that Autopilot was not activated at all during the fatal crash. Newport Beach Police Lt. Eric Little noted that at the time of the accident, a Tesla Model S Plaid traveling “in great excess of the speed limit” crashed into construction equipment. Considering the investigators’ findings, Little noted that the ill-fated Model S was under its driver’s control at the time.
Authorities have also hinted that alcohol or drugs and excessive speed were the primary factors behind the collision. Little, for his part, noted that it is pertinent for authorities to provide a complete investigation. “People want some closure to these incidents, and here you had the loss of three lives. With how tragic this was, it was important to provide a complete, thorough investigation for their loved ones while not speculating on the nature of the crash,” Little said.