A Tesla Motors Inc. owner’s manual showed the California electric car was operating with its “Autopilot” setting enabled at the time of a crash near Fort Worth last week that killed the driver.
The National Transportation Safety Board said in a preliminary report on Thursday that Lane Rutledge, 32, of Kyle, Texas, had manual controls for both the automatic emergency braking system and a side air bag after being removed from the sporty Model S sedan.
Since Tesla does not offer standard side air bags, the part had been mounted on the floorboard of the front seat, the NTSB said.
Rutledge’s father, David Rutledge, called the air bag assembly an “interior miscellany.”
David Rutledge also said the settings on the Model S manual showed that the Autopilot mode was on.
A Tesla spokesman said: “The NHTSA investigation will look at battery performance at speeds in excess of 55 mph (88 kph) when the driver engaged Autopilot and whether he or she kept their hands on the wheel.
“The NHTSA investigation should take at least six months to conclude.”
Tesla’s Autopilot mode allows the car to drive itself within a narrow prescribed area of the road, maintain a set speed and change lanes.
The NTSB said Rutledge was driving near Fort Worth around 1:45 a.m. on May 23 when his car lost control in the rain and hit a concrete concrete median. It traveled at least 340 feet and went airborne before stopping. The preliminary information showed the car was traveling between 75 mph and 98 mph at the time of the crash.