The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) has issued a preliminary report on the crash of a Tesla Model S in May in Florida. According to the report, the vehicle reignited twice after it was involved in a fatal collision. The report also stated that the crash remains under investigation as the NTSB prepares recommendations to avoid similar incidents in the future.
The NTSB is not required to investigate all highway collisions nor is the agency required to probe all accidents involving electric or semi-automated vehicles. However, the NTSB has expressed concern about several crashes involving autonomous vehicles that resulted in the fatalities of drivers and passengers. The NTSB’s investigations of these incidents include crashes in Culver City, California, Tempe, Arizona and Mountain View, California.
In its report of the Florida crash, the NTSB made several findings. It noted that the driver was traveling at 116 miles per hour three seconds before he crashed along a boulevard in Fort Lauderdale. The car burst into flames upon impact. The driver and front seat passenger of the Tesla were killed and a third passenger was ejected from the car but did not die. The report also confirmed that 200-300 gallons of water and foam were used to fight the blaze and extinguish the debris which included parts of the high voltage battery. The battery burst into flames a second time when the car was being removed from the accident scene and then a subsequent time when the Tesla was placed in a storage yard. Fire departments responded to both fires and extinguished them.
Reignited fires in Tesla batteries have occurred in two other incidents in recent months. In California, a fatal crash involving a Tesla Model X led to the reignition of the battery days after the crash. In another incident, a Tesla battery spontaneously exploded without a preceding incident. The NTSB’s probe will provide additional procedures for putting out battery fires in electric car crashes and handling electric cars following initial explosions.
Tesla stated that it has several built-in features to prevent these explosions from occurring. One such feature is the battery pack design which separates cells into distinct modules with firewalls situated between the modules. Firewalls are also placed between the battery pack and passenger area. It remains to be seen whether such actions are adequate to avoid multiple explosions. The NTSB report will certainly be helpful in establishing procedures and recommending preventive measures going forward.
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