Monday, 21 June 2021 22:38

The Tesla Autopilot Excuse: How EV Ignorance Created the Perfect Storm for a Misinformation Nightmare

Written by Simon Alvarez, Teslarati
A Tesla Model 3 that burned after a crash in April in Texas. A Tesla Model 3 that burned after a crash in April in Texas. NTSB


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It was only a few hours after the accident and a bold statement was already making its rounds in the mainstream media.

Another Tesla has crashed, and this time, it took the lives of two individuals from Texas. Facing inquiries from journalists eager for some clarity as to what happened in the tragic incident, Harris County Pct. 4 Constable Mark Herman shared a surprisingly confident and bold statement: there was no one in the ill-fated Model S’ driver seat when it crashed. 


“They are 100% certain that no one was in the driver seat driving that vehicle at the time of impact. They are positive," Herman said. "And again, the height from the back seat to the front seat, that would be almost impossible, but again our investigators are trained. They handle collisions.


"Several of our folks are reconstructionists, but they feel very confident just with the positioning of the bodies after the impact that there was no one driving that vehicle,” Herman added, also noting the electric car’s fire was out of control for four hours. 


This statement, as well as the headlines that followed it, have since been proven false. And today, they stand as a remarkable case study on how misinformation spreads, and how the truth---even if it eventually emerges from legitimate sources---becomes largely ignored.


This is the story of a Model S crash, rushed statements and how general ignorance of electric vehicles could result in a massive misinformation nightmare. 


But to get a complete view of this story, one has to go back to that fateful night on April 17, when two men, a 59-year-old Tesla owner and his 69-year-old passenger, crashed after traveling just about 550 feet, before departing the road on a curve, driving over a curb, hitting a drainage culvert and a raised manhole, and smashing into a tree. The vehicle was ablaze following its crash.


The Accident


As it is with other Tesla crashes, the Model S crash in Texas immediately caught the attention of national media. It did not take long before even foreign outlets were running with the story.


It was during this initial wave of media attention that Herman noted...

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