Seoul/New Delhi, Dec 24: South Korea's transport safety agency has launched a preliminary investigation into causes of a deadly accident involving a Tesla electric vehicle, officials said on Thursday. A Tesla Model X caught fire after ramming into a parking lot wall at a Seoul apartment on December 9, killing the car owner who was in the passenger seat, and injuring the designated driver and an employee of an apartment. The designated driver told police that the car went out of control due to "unintended acceleration," reports Yonhap news agency. Tesla to Halt Production of Model S and X Electric Cars for 18 Days: Report.

Last week, the Korea Automobile Testing & Research Institute requested Tesla to submit documents related to the accident to figure out the cause of the accident, said an official of the Ministry of Land, Transport and Infrastructure. The institute, which is overseen by the ministry, will look into whether the accident was caused by sudden unintended acceleration or battery problems, and will examine its door lock system, the official said.

Fire fighters couldn't immediately open the SUV's door to rescue the car owner as its electronic door lock system was inoperable due to fire. The firefighters later took the owner out of the car through the trunk and rushed him to a hospital, where he died. If problems are discovered in a preliminary process, investigators can launch probes into the accident and the ministry can make decisions about a recall to fix faulty parts, officials said.

Tesla was not immediately available for comment. Last year, US federal agencies opened probe into the circumstances that led to a fatal collision involving Tesla vehicles in March. The agencies, Washington-headquartered National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) and National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) were investigating a collision between a Tesla Model 3 and a semi truck in Delray Beach, Florida in which 50-year-old Jeremy Beren Banner was killed.

The accident came almost two years after the NTSB said the design limitations of the Autopilot system played a major role in the 2016 crash that killed Tesla driver Joshua Brown in Florida. In 2018, US safety regulators launched investigation into a crash in the city of Utah in the US that occurred when a Tesla Model S plowed into a fire department vehicle while it was on "autopilot" mode in the month of May.

The 28-year-old female driver of the Tesla vehicle admitting she was looking at her phone prior to the collision. Data from the vehicle showed that the driver repeatedly cancelled and then re-engaged features of the semi-autnonomous driving system "autopilot", according to Tesla technicians. NHTSA has started investigations into 13 Tesla crashes dating back to 2016 in which the agency believes Autopilot was operating. The agency is yet to issue any regulations. In its recent safety report, Tesla claimed that there was a Tesla vehicle fire for every 170 million miles travelled between 2012 and 2018 compared to a vehicle fire for every 19 million miles travelled in the US.

(The above story first appeared on LatestLY on Dec 24, 2020 06:14 PM IST. For more news and updates on politics, world, sports, entertainment and lifestyle, log on to our website