'Don't worry': Tesla driver boasts on video before fatal crash

·News Editor
·4-min read

A man who was killed after his Tesla Model 3 crashed into an overturned truck on a highway posted a number of haunting videos on social media before his death. 

Steven Hendrickson was killed on May 5 after he collided with the overturned truck in Fontana, in the US state of California, injuring the truck driver and another driver who had stopped to help

Hendrickson, 35, often posted about his Tesla, sharing videos on Instagram and TikTok showing the features of the car, which costs just over $60,000. 

He was also a member of the Southern California chapter of a Tesla club and would go for long drives for days at a time. 

In the lead-up to his death, one video on his Instagram account showed him in the driver's seat without his hands on the wheel or foot on the pedal as the Tesla navigated traffic on a freeway. 

Videos of Steven Hendrickson driving his Tesla without his hands on the wheel.
Steven Hendrickson posted on social media videos of him driving without his hands on the wheel of his Tesla. Source: Instagram

"Best carpool buddy possible, even takes the boring traffic for me," he said. 

Another video on TikTok again showed him in the vehicle without his hands on the wheel.

"What would I do without my full self-driving Tesla after a long day at work," he commented on one of the videos.

"Coming home from LA after work, thank god, self-drive," he said in another.

"Best car ever!"

In another post on Facebook, Hendrickson filmed a video while in the driver's seat, but said, "Don't worry. I am on autopilot".

Tesla Autopilot system questioned

Tesla dubbed its driver assistant features “Autopilot” or “Full Self-driving”, which experts say could mislead consumers into believing the car can drive by itself.

On its website, Tesla said its Autopilot feature does not make the vehicle autonomous, however.

The Associated Press news agency cited police as saying a preliminary investigation had determined the Tesla’s driver assistant system Autopilot was engaged before the crash.

But in a correction issued late on Friday, police said, “There has not been a final determination made as to what driving mode the Tesla was in".

Tesla Club for Southern California paid tribute to Hendrickson on social media after his untimely death. 

Tesla driver Steven Hendrickson poses for a photo in front of a tree.
Steven Hendrickson was killed in a crash in his Tesla on May 5. Source: Instagram

"He was a wonderful father, friend and active in the Tesla Club-SoCal community," the club wrote on Instagram.

"Every time we spoke to him, he would light up talking about his kids and loved his Tesla.

"He was truly an amazing human being and will be missed."

A GoFundMe page set up in the wake of his death also said he had left two amazing children and his wife behind.

"He was an amazing father and husband," the page said.

"His death was unexpected and taken too soon from this Earth."

At least three deaths linked to Tesla Autopilot

At least three people have died in previous US crashes involving Autopilot, which can keep a car centred in its lane and a safe distance behind vehicles in front of it. 

Tesla is allowing a limited number of owners to test its self-driving system.

Tesla, which has disbanded its public relations department, did not respond Friday to an email seeking comment. 

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The company says in owner’s manuals and on its website that both Autopilot and “Full Self-Driving” are not fully autonomous and drivers must pay attention and be ready to intervene at any time.

Autopilot at times has had trouble dealing with stationary objects and traffic crossing in front of Teslas.

In two Florida crashes, from 2016 and 2019, cars with Autopilot in use drove beneath crossing tractor-trailers, killing the men driving the Teslas. 

In a 2018 crash in Mountain View, California, an Apple engineer driving on Autopilot was killed when his Tesla struck a highway barrier.

Tesla’s system, which uses cameras, radar and short-range sonar, also has trouble handling stopped emergency vehicles. 

Teslas have struck several firetrucks and police vehicles that were stopped on freeways with their flashing emergency lights on.

with AP and Reuters

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