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It’s not certain whether or not Autopilot was involved, or the degree to which the battery was involved in destroying the vehicle. Fires are common in crashes regardless of the power plant. We’ve asked Tesla for comment, but the California Highway Patrol believed the battery might have played a role.
Regardless of the causes, the crash highlights the uncertainties surrounding the safety of electric cars, especially as the introduce autonomous features. First responders still aren’t certain how to deal with EV crashes, and there’s now the potential for autonomous driving systems to play as much of a role as humans.