Car that killed California man in fatal Tesla crash was moving ‘in a blind spot’

AUSTIN — A California driver who died in a weekend Tesla crash was in the driver’s seat when the Tesla Model S he was driving ran off the road and flipped, killing the driver,…

Car that killed California man in fatal Tesla crash was moving 'in a blind spot'

AUSTIN — A California driver who died in a weekend Tesla crash was in the driver’s seat when the Tesla Model S he was driving ran off the road and flipped, killing the driver, according to the National Transportation Safety Board.

“Mr. Li was at the controls of the vehicle at the time of the crash,” NTSB investigator Valerie Perez said at a news conference Tuesday afternoon. She would not comment about how long he had been driving the Tesla and said that investigators don’t know how long before the crash he had been driving the car.

“We are looking into how he began driving, how much training he had, if he did any types of crash avoidance,” Perez said.

The NTSB has launched an investigation into the crash, and the NTSB’s preliminary investigation and accident reconstruction will take several weeks, Perez said. The NTSB will receive the information needed from law enforcement agencies and the vehicle manufacturer and report its findings by April 15.

“This will result in a comprehensive report, including product issues, safety issues and driving conditions,” she said.

The crash occurred about 1:40 a.m. Saturday near the town of Broken Arrow, 40 miles southeast of Oklahoma City.

Uber, which operated the car service, reported to authorities Monday that a woman had taken her Uber service and that her vehicle crashed after “avoiding an emergency vehicle for several seconds.”

The passenger was ejected during the crash and died later at an area hospital, according to The Oklahoman.

A Tesla spokesman declined to comment, and a Twitter message sent to the victim’s wife was not immediately returned.

“Please keep his family in your thoughts,” Tesla tweeted.

The the medical examiner’s office did not identify the victim, and a Facebook post on her Facebook page, where she had previously posted about the promise of electric cars, showed no posts from before the crash.

NTSB typically investigates crashes involving commercial vehicles, such as buses, to figure out whether the vehicles’ automated driving systems were involved.

Many motorists who have bought electric cars, such as Tesla’s Model S, have been largely unaware of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s involvement in the investigations, despite the agency being a regulator of the vehicles, said Mike McCurry, who was chief White House spokesman for Bill Clinton and served as a presidential spokesman in the 1970s.

NHTSA issues official recommendations to its members, but it’s left up to auto manufacturers to investigate and, in many cases, report any incidents. This is not the first time that Tesla’s self-driving capabilities have been the topic of criticism in the wake of a fatal crash.

Last year, Tesla had an employee suspended for three weeks after it was discovered he was using Tesla software to carry out some of the most basic functions of the car, including cornering and taking pictures.

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