(Bloomberg) -- The Texas man who died last April when his Tesla slammed into a tree and burst into flames was behind the wheel and applying the accelerator in the moments before the impact, federal accident investigators said.
The Model S reached 67 miles (107.83 kilometers) per hour before veering off a residential street and striking a tree, the U.S. National Transportation Safety Board said in an investigative update issued Thursday.
The preliminary findings effectively clear the vehicle’s controversial Autopilot system in the crash and put to rest initial reports from police that no one was driving the car. The body of the vehicle’s owner was found in the rear seat after the fire was extinguished, and those initial reports from police had led to speculation that Autopilot, which has been involved in dozens of other crashes, might have been engaged.
The NTSB’s preliminary report said “all aspects” of the crash remain under investigation, including Tesla’s automated driving systems. The agency’s tests found that the system’s auto-steering function wasn’t available on that portion of the road due to a lack of lane markings. Full Autopilot can’t be engaged without the steering function.
The owner and a passenger died in the high-speed crash in Spring, Texas, on April 17.
The report is a measure of good news for Tesla, whose Chief Executive Officer Elon Musk had called initial reports about the accident “completely false.” But the company remains under the spotlight after the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration in August opened a formal investigation into the involvement of Tesla’s automation system in crashes into first-responder vehicles.
(Updates with investigative findings, Autopilot status from third paragraph)
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