Two men involved in a fatal car crash last year that sparked questions about Tesla’s autopilot feature had allegedly been drinking, according to an autopsy report obtained by Bloomberg. William Varner, 59, and Everette Talbot, 69, went for a joyride after dinner with their spouses to explore the vehicle’s “self-driving ability,” the Harris County Constable’s Office said. Despite home security camera footage showing him entering the driver’s seat of his Tesla Model S, Varner was in the backseat when the car crashed and erupted into flames thirty minutes later. When first-responders arrived at the scene, they initially said the vehicle was driven by “no one,” prompting national headlines and widespread scrutiny over the safety of the vehicle’s autopilot feature. However, Varner had a 0.08% blood alcohol level, twice the legal limit in Texas.
Tesla CEO Elon Musk initially blasted accusations of autopilot involvement, deeming it “completely false.” He said it was likely there was a driver at the time of the crash. According to the National Transportation Safety Board, the car was equipped with the automated driver assistance system, but Varner did not have all necessary components turned on when the incident occurred.