June 12, 2024

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Tesla taxi in Paris fatal crash had no technical fault, gov’t told

PARIS — Tesla has told the French government there is no indication that a technical fault may have caused a fatal accident in Paris involving a Tesla Model 3 taxi, a government spokesman said on Wednesday.

Paris taxi company G7 has suspended the use of the 37 Model 3 cars in its fleet after an accident on Saturday involving one of its drivers in which one person was killed and 20 injured.

Three people are in serious condition, according to a person close to the investigation.

“We have been in contact, of course, with Tesla’s management and they tell us that there is no technical problem to flag on their vehicles,” government spokesman Gabriel Attal told reporters.

He added that the government was waiting for the outcome of the ongoing judicial investigation.

Transport Minister Jean-Baptiste Djebbari told RMC radio that he had spoken with the chief executive of Tesla Europe, who told him there had been no safety alerts about the Model 3.

He added that the automaker, which collects detailed data from the sensors and cameras on its vehicles, notified him that it had provided the relevant technical data to investigators.

Tesla, which is at the forefront of the electrical and self-driving vehicle revolution and has a market value of nearly $1 trillion, has not responded to requests for comment.

G7 Deputy Chief Executive Yann Ricordel told Reuters the accident occurred while an off-duty taxi driver was taking his family to a restaurant. The driver tried to brake but the car accelerated instead, Ricordel said.

A police source told Reuters that the car, which had stopped at a red traffic light, suddenly sped forward, hitting and dragging with it a cyclist who later died.

The driver tried to stop the vehicle by steering into surrounding obstacles, including trash bins, causing further damage, the police source said, citing the driver’s own version of events, witnesses and video surveillance.

It was not clear whether the car was operating in Tesla’s Autopilot mode, which handles some driving tasks. The driver tested negative in a alcohol test, the police source said.

A judicial source said that an investigation into involuntary homicide by the driver had been opened.

Video of the scene obtained by Reuters showed the wreckage of a black Tesla and debris strewn across the street. The vehicle’s left-hand side was crumpled, the front left wheel collapsed and the windscreen shattered.

The car appeared to have collided with a white van, which suffered front-end damage. Other footage circulating on social media showed members of the public tending to the wounded and shocked bystanders in the aftermath of the accident.

Tesla boss Elon Musk was named 2021 “person of the year” by both Time and the Financial Times for triggering a historic shift in the auto industry towards electric vehicles, and also sending rockets into orbit with his space company.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the U.S. auto safety regulator, said in August it had sent teams to review 31 Tesla crashes involving 10 deaths since 2016 where it suspected advanced driver assistance systems use.

It ruled out Autopilot in three of the crashes.

Musk has repeatedly defended Autopilot and in April tweeted that “Tesla with Autopilot engaged now approaching 10 times lower chance of accident than average vehicle.”

Tesla advises drivers they must keep their hands on the steering wheel and pay attention while using Autopilot.