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Crash and fire of a driverless Tesla leaves two dead and causes company shares to fall

It is speculated that the occupants were using the 'Autopilot' function at the time of crashing in a Tesla Model S, as no driver was found on board.

This article was translated from our Spanish edition. Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

This Saturday night, a 2019 Tesla Model S electric vehicle crashed, caught fire and left two people dead. Elon Musk's company now faces one more controversy, as the authorities did not find any driver on board , so they speculate that the occupants would be using the 'Autopilot' function .

Getty Images vía PC Mag

The spectacular accident occurred in Harris County, north of Houston, Texas. According to preliminary research, the Tesla was traveling at high speed and lost control in a curve. The vehicle went off the road, collided with a tree and caught fire, authorities reported.

Emergency crews fought to put out the fire for about four hours, as it continued to reignite because the battery continued to catch fire.

After they managed to extinguish the fire, rescuers found two people on board, one in the passenger seat and one in the back seat. That is, there was no driver.

This Sunday, Texas authorities claimed to be "99.9%" sure that "no one was driving the vehicle at the time of impact ." However, they clarify, the matter "is still under investigation ."

For now, the investigations are focused on two unknowns. The first is whether or not the airbags were activated upon impact, which would give clues to Tesla's safety.

The second and most important would be to determine if the vehicle had activated the 'Autopilot' or 'autopilot' function , an intelligent assisted driving system that is one of Tesla's main hallmarks.

How safe is Tesla's 'Autopilot'?

Elon Musk's company has always emphasized that while it is safer to activate the smart assistance system while driving, drivers should always be on the lookout to take control of the vehicle if necessary. In fact, they have a sensor that measures the movements of the steering wheel to detect whether or not the driver has their hands on it. If not, the car sends out notices and eventually rolls over.

This accident could affect the launch of the new total autonomous driving system , which Tesla is already testing in its electric cars.

Elon Musk himself , CEO of Tesla , has defended the safety of his vehicles. This same week he shared a report on Twitter , assuring that a Tesla with activated autopilot now has a "10 times lower" probability of being in an accident than an average vehicle.

According to Reuters reports, the US security administration is investigating 23 accidents related to Tesla's 'Autopilot' systems. However, this could be the first accident in which it is known with virtually certainty that no one was in the driver's seat, notes The Verge .

In addition, the accident has already impacted Tesla shares , which fell 4.4% to $ 707.34 by 9:30 a.m. local time in New York.