A 48-year-German driver died when his car hit the barrier in the central reservation of a motorway in the southern Swiss canton of Ticino, turned over and burst into flames.
“The violent impact of lithium-ion batteries could probably have caused a phenomenon called ‘thermal runaway’, i.e. a rapid and unstoppable increase in temperature,” Ticino fire brigade said on its Facebook page.
Lithium-ion batteries can, under exceptional circumstances, have a sudden and unstoppable increase in temperature, in a sort of chain reaction that leads to the complete destruction of the batteries and the car, said fire safety expert Guido Zaccarelli in an article quoted by the firefighters.
A Tesla spokesman said: “We are deeply saddened by this accident, and we are working to establish the facts of the incident and offer our full cooperation to local authorities.”
On Friday a Tesla Model S crashed at speed into a truck in South Jordan, Utah. The U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) is also reviewing a Florida crash of a Tesla last week that killed two teenagers.
On a related note, The Wall Street Journal today reported that Tesla had looked into and rejected technology such as eye-tracking to ensure that Tesla owners weren’t misusing Autopilot.
“It came down to cost, and Elon was confident we wouldn’t need it,” a source told the WSJ.
However, Elon Musk responded to the report in a tweet, saying that eye-tracking was rejected as ineffective. It is, however, used by some other manufacturers such as Cadillac in its Super Cruise system.
Recently, a driver in England lost his license for activating Autopilot then moving into the passenger seat.
Reporting by John Revill