The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration says it is investigating a Tesla crash that killed a California couple at an interstate rest stop near Gainesville, Florida.
The driver and passenger died when their 2015 Tesla ran into the back of a parked tractor-trailer on July 6, according to the Florida Highway Patrol. “For unknown reasons, the Tesla travelled into a parking lot towards a tractor trailer. The Tesla struck the rear of the tractor trailer, were it came to a final rest,” the FHP told CBS4 News in a statement.
The Tesla veered towards the truck lot of the rest area after getting off the highway, then ran into a parked Walmart truck, with the front of the car going under the trailer and its roof crushed by the impact, the FHP said in its report.
It is not yet clear if the car’s driver-assistance Autopilot feature was operating at the time of the crash, which killed Mary Lou Seelandt, 66, and her husband, Karl Seelandt, 67, of Lompoc, California.
Pronounced dead at the scene, the pair had been on a long road trip that included their granddaughter’s first birthday in Georgia, according to a GoFundMe post.
Lawyers retained by the couple’s family said they were awaiting more information, including audio and video recorded of the collision, to have a better understanding of what had occurred.
Tesla did not immediately return a request for comment.
Since 2016, NHTSA has opened three dozen special investigations of Tesla crashes in which driver assistance systems were thought to have been in use.
The agency last month reported there have been 367 crashes involving vehicles with driver-assist systems from July 2021 to May 15, 2022, with Tesla making up a majority, or 273, of the cases.
Separately, a key executive behind Tesla’s driver-assistance system has announced his departure from the company. “It’s been a great pleasure to help Tesla towards its goals over the last five years and a difficult decision to part ways,” Andrej Karpathy, the company’s head of AI, tweeted on Wednesday. “In that time, Autopilot graduated from lane keeping to city streets and I look forward to seeing the exceptionally strong Autopilot team continue that momentum.”