Stolen Tesla crashed, ripped in half, first major injury and potential fatality in a Tesla

Stolen Tesla crashed, ripped in half, first major injury and potential fatality in a Tesla

akikiki | 04/07/2014

"I'm beginning to think that Tesla has not done enough to address this issue."

Really? Where does it say Tesla's mission was to build an unbreakable anvil.

"I agree that perhaps it is time for Tesla to make these cars tougher, or better yet, virtually impossible to steal."

Really? That's all it takes to make it impossible to steal? a FOB and PIN? Can we quote you? Will you guarantee that?

GeekEV | 04/07/2014

That is absolutely incredible footage. And he survived? I don't see how anybody could criticize the Tesla's performance in this case. I doubt he would have survived* in any other car. I'd hazard a guess the critical injuries were caused while being thrown through the windshield and crashing to the pavement. As for those saying he wasn't wearing his seatbelt - maybe. But even if he were, when the car sliced in half it seems probable that the seatbelt system may have been damaged or possibly even the entire seat ripped out from under him. While I feel bad for the innocent drivers injured, I, for one, see this as a very positive outcome.

* There are unconfirmed reports the driver has died. Even if so, it was apparently not upon impact, which is still pretty incredible.

Neech | 04/07/2014

How the heck did the car get up into that gap in the building? I'm guessing he was driving a max speed and went airborne. Any other car would have crumbled in that kind of crash.

logicalthinker | 04/07/2014

I wish there were security footage of the actual event.

Bighorn | 04/07/2014

It looks like the rear section rode the utility pole up to its final resting spot. The folks in the Honda were fortunate to only be hit by half a Tesla. How the battery broke up is anyone's guess.

tezzla.SoCal | 04/07/2014

Maybe there is a dashcam in the car. That'd great footage.

CU OPEC | 04/07/2014

I'm shocked they even gave chase. One call to Tesla HQ and they could have remotely cut power, no?
Even OnStar can do that.

AndyO | 04/07/2014

It's not clear that the Service Center or Police had a firm ID on the specific car that would translate to a VIN to allow a shutdown. I suspect the chase car was fairly busy and may never have gotten an ID on the tag which was going 80-100 mph. We also don't know how long the chase lasted. It may have only been a few minutes. Do the Police know how to call Tesla?

GeekEV | 04/07/2014

I wouldn't be at all surprised if Tesla announces a dedicated law enforcement support program like OnStar does as a result of this. While I'm sure it could have been done, technically, I don't know if they're setup to process and respond to a call like that in a streamlined fashion. As for IDing the car, they all have GPS and can be tracked with the Tesla app. Heck, the Tesla app even shows you the speedo from the car. With the right software I'm sure Tesla could have quickly pinged all the cars and determined which ones were in the area of the chase and going way too fast and shut it down based on that. They could flash the lights or something to allow the police to visually confirm they've got the right car before proceeding.

Thumper | 04/07/2014

I'm not so sure that a disabling feature would be the cure-all it is being promoted as. Think about the problem in real time. A thief manages to steal a Tesla. For the disabling to be implemented, the owner must inform the police or Tesla directly that their individual car has been stolen. Only then could Tesla disable the correct miscreant car. Typically, the owner would be asleep or elsewhere while the thief is off joyriding. It would not help for spectators or even the police to notice that the car was careening down a certain street. They would need the VIN which is difficult to read as the car passes at high speed. By the time the theft is noticed, and the identification is sorted out, there would be plenty of time for a tragedy to unfold. Optional PIN and Valet mode seem more effective possibilities IMHO.

EJH | 04/07/2014

@ Akikiki

I do not think that the elimination of vehicles being stolen to be "joy-rided" is beyond the realm of possibility, and the software-based Model S has a terrific advantage in this regard.

I, for one, am not here to offer solutions, but only suggestions, which, by the way are often very constructive.

Really. | 04/07/2014

The articles I have seen said the service center called the police because someone was tampering with the car (& I know things are distorted in the initial phases of reporting/investigation).

I really like the car extending the handles as I approach. I sit in the car and accessories have powered on. I touch the brake, put it in "gear". I arrive at my destination and leave the vehicle. This is part of the seamless, fluid & enjoyable ritual that is Tesla.

I would really be disappointed if I unnecessarily had to go through touch code, fingerprint/retinal analysis, or anything else for such a low probability event.

As I posted before-- I would like to know HOW this SP was stolen. I guess, more importantly, I hope Tesla knows how it was stolen.

Captain_Zap | 04/07/2014

On the NBC Evening News they said there were no fatalities.

EdwardG.NO2CO2 | 04/07/2014

I remember discussions on other auto forums about Police having a device that when pointed at a vehicle a signal would disable it. Not sure how they can avoid other nearby vehicles but perhaps the tail light and head light blink would indicate zoned in on the right car with a test signal, then disable signal could be sent. There will be some good ways to disable stolen cars when Tesla gets closer to mainstream (they have the platform already).

akikiki | 04/07/2014

Back in March of this year, I wrote to OE and asked them if TM could disable a MS if it was stolen. I promptly received the following reply.

"Thank you for taking the time to reach out to Tesla Motors regarding Model S. In the event a Model S is stolen from the owner’s possession, we recommend that the owner contacts their local law enforcement agency. Tesla does not have the ability to disable or stop a Model S, but we will file your inquiry as a feature request for future consideration.

Best regards,
Ownership Experience Advocate"

Bighorn | 04/07/2014

Thanks for that piece of info. I was wondering if it was in fact possible or not. Seeing as firmware updates require owner approval, I was unsure if our speculation about remotely disabling the vehicle was even an option. I'm not sure I'd be happy giving up that right.

AlMc | 04/07/2014

+1 Bighorn: I would prefer not giving up that control. I would rather like the ability to put the car in 'valet mode' whenever I park it..if I choose. The valet mode could be removed, as other's suggest, with a four digit code on my phone app Or in the car. | 04/07/2014

I disagree. A Ford F150 with a full gas tank,higher center of gravity, higher profile and more rigid frame could be considered more of a threat (with an irresponsible driver). Ultimately time and accident data will tell.

Mike83 | 04/07/2014

A bus crash fire killed 10 people a few months ago.
Data suggests explosions with gas or diesel results in many more deaths. Electric buses would be a great advance. | 04/07/2014


Your statement is ridiculous. What possible basis could you have for such a statement?

A couple of cars are damaged when an out of control Tesla traveling at high speed hits them?

You've got to be kidding. If anything, the fact the Model S has such a large crumble zone in front to absorb the energy of a front end collision may make it safer for any vehicle hit by the front end of a Tesla.

akikiki | 05/07/2014

Okay, so this makes four cars that have been stolen.
What were the circumstances of each of the four that lead to the thefts? Were the fobs easy to obtain? Was that the weak link, not the car?

Considering there are 45,000 on the road, four stolen cars do not indicate a serious design flaw. Why has this fob without a PIN not been an issue until now?

To implement a fob/PIN enhancement, should TM’s software team stop what they are working on to write code for the 1% or 10% that suddenly think this is an issue solved with software? Who decides?

What are other manufacturers of expensive vehicles doing when they learn that some of their current year vehicles have been stolen? Many inexpensive cars use a fob system. Where are the outcries from owners to discontinue using the fob or move to an enhanced method?

I too am interested in how the car was stolen from the SC. Does anyone really think that it’s any of our business? How the SC's operate is none of our business. We will be very lucky if we ever find out how it happened?

Let’s assume for a moment that there was a PIN for the fob? How are you going to guarantee that they car’s PIN is not attached via a tag to the fob or written on the work order when left at a service center or valet or third party vendor?

The manufacturer of the best and safest car in the world can’t solve all the problems of the world.

eholl2002 | 05/07/2014

Also recall reading an article stating a computer hacker can unlock the doors on a Tesla. Strongly suggest they switch to a more secure operating system such as that provided by Blackberry. It's the only system so secure it's approved by the Department of Defense. Tesla needs to act quickly before consumers start thinking a Tesla can be easily stolen.

Captain_Zap | 05/07/2014

I would like to decline those extreme anti theft measures.

Al1 | 05/07/2014

So far statistics are showing the opposite. Teslas are among the hardest to be stolen.

As long as there is no secondary market for Tesla parts the theft statistics will rather work in favor of Tesla.

Of course the very fact that Tesla has no ordinary locks will attract some trying to establish themselves in hackers' world, which was probably also the case here, but then again this still won't change mass statistics.

I agree Tesla needs to act quickly, but only as quickly as they can figure out what else needs to be done. And the answer may well be do nothing for the moment, but keep educating against misperceptions.

We don't know whole lot here. Why the thief decided to steal a car from the center, but not a private car? Could it be because there was some generic pin he was able to hack, before it was personalized by the owner? Or could it be the fact that generic pin gives him extra time before the exact VIN is identified and blocked?

Also the police got the warning that somebody was tempering the car. It wasn't quite "somebody has stolen our car". How would have Tesla team known that if there was no some sort of built in control?

Quite honestly at a first glance none of these could be used against Tesla. Many people want to be first to have Tesla, and then some want to be first to hack it. Well, good luck with that but remember the very minute you are trying to do that police will know about it. So that finding the exact VIN is matter of minutes and your best bet is to run as quickly as you can, before you are identified with burning evidence of the crime.

So what's the point? Having a few minutes of free test drive?

Each of these events is an opportunity to learn lessons for Tesla. But it is also a lesson for hackers. So what is the lesson for hackers?

You may be able to hack Tesla. But you still won't have it nor get too far with it.

Roamer@AZ USA | 05/07/2014

Interesting side point that the cops spun out trying to keep up with a Tesla. Trained pursuit driver chasing a doofus car thief and the doofus stays on the least for awhile.

Al1 | 05/07/2014

"the cops spun out trying to keep up with a Tesla".

Indeed. Something to think about when Police Departments select their next cars.

johncrab | 05/07/2014

Is anyone here old enough to remember the Pinto which was known to burst into flames when hit from behind? How about the Chevy Impala/Caprice from about 1965-1978? How about the Ford Crown Vic with the same rear-ending/exploding problem. Just go to YouTube and look for "car fire" and compare the fire from cars NOT involved in high speed crashes to what we saw Friday and the message is clear. Tesla is a very safe car and it is far safer even when driven by a complete *sshat with wanton disregard for lives and property.

Car thefts will also happen, even with a Tesla but the company made it very difficult, unlike an Olds Cutlass, the most often stolen car ever. It was called "Type O Positive" because it was the universal donor for GM cars. It could be broken into with a coat hanger and gone in about 20 seconds.

This weekend's events show that Tesla is mindful of all of this history and is working proactively. Yet, the best brains in the business (and Tesla has them) cannot design around everything and every creep out there.

Mark E | 05/07/2014

At this stage it isn't clear how the car was stolen, at least not from anything I've seen. I'd expect that they took the fob. I've had my ICE car stolen from a service centre and joyridden, they took the key and simply drove it out.

Joshua Burstyn | 05/07/2014


And if this particular thief opened the doors, who cares? It still wouldn't have entered drive mode. At least to my knowledge no one has figured out how to leave park after "hacking" the car.

Furthermore the ubuntu release this car appears to be based on can probably be enabled for SELinux - which was created by the NSA. Apparently they believe that Linux + SELinux MAC are good enough for them.

PBEndo | 05/07/2014

and now the 2nd Tesla crash on the 4th resulted in the Toyota bursting into flames

Captain_Zap | 05/07/2014

It sounds like only one person is still hospitalized.

CT-Greg | 05/07/2014

"Strongly suggest they switch to a more secure operating system such as that provided by Blackberry. It's the only system so secure it's approved by the Department of Defense."

This is not actually true. Samsung's Galaxy devices and iOS are also approved mobile platforms. Then there are the non-mobile ones to think about.

Red Sage ca us | 05/07/2014

Maximum Security...

I would love it if security functions could be tied to your Driver Profile, and loaded via custom voice commands. That would be more appropriate than a PIN for a Tesla, I think. I would use lines from movies:

☷ Valet Parking - "Soylent Green is People!"
__ ⇒ 25 MPH maximum speed, two mile range before shutdown, automatic charging if connected, system lockout.

☴ Public Parking - "Everybody remember where we parked!"
__ ⇒ Place a marker on the map on my mobile device, allow automatic charging, set climate control to preferred level.

☲ Home Parking - "There's no place like home!"
__ ⇒ Set up for charging at specific time of day/night and to accept & apply updates automatically.

☵ Ready to GO - "To infinity and beyond!"
__ ⇒ Full power and maximized feature set.

☰ Curfew Mode - "Are we there yet?"
__ ⇒ 45 MPH maximum speed, system lockout, fifty mile range before shutdown, automatic charging if connected (for teenagers).

It would be nice if I could call my car from the official mobile app to make these changes on the fly too...

johncrab wrote, "Type O Positive"

Dude, I laughed, and laughed, and laughed... because it's TRUE!

PBEndo | 05/07/2014

Red Sage - some of those voice commands would prevent me from singing show tunes while driving,

and that would be a good thing. | 05/07/2014

This tragedy was caused largely by ignorance.
The thief did not realize that the car could be tracked.
The Tesla Service Center person who reported the teft to the police may not have informed them that the car was trackable.

The officers pursuing the stolen car should not have been doing so. Either the police were informed that the car was trackable and ignored the information or they were not informed and were ignorant of the trackability of the car.

It is possible that the thief would have exceeded the speed limits and caused an accident even with no pursuit but probably less likely.

As far as security is concerned, a simple PIN as with the iPhone that enables the Tesla to be driven might be a good idea. If the service center has a car in their possession that is waiting to be worked on, there could be a service mode that prevents the car from being operated except by service personnel. The car could be returned to normal owner mode at the completion of the service when the owner picks up the car.

Also the car could be remotely disabled if found to be stolen, although that might risk the stolen car being abandoned in a dangerous place. Maybe just best to wait until the car stops and catch the thief there.

tes-s | 05/07/2014

It is possible that the thief would have exceeded the speed limits and caused an accident even with no pursuit but probably less likely.

My understanding form the news reports is he was not being pursued by police.

tes-s | 05/07/2014

Also the car could be remotely disabled if found to be stolen

EdwardG.NO2CO2 | 05/07/2014

At the time of the accident no, but only 7 miles later the crash occurred so may have been still running scared!

PBEndo | 05/07/2014

If the thief was out for a joyride and was driving dangerously before any pursuit, should the police start a pursuit to try and stop him or let him continue to drive dangerously?
I obviously don't know all the facts of this situation yet, but I am wondering how the police decide whether to pursue or not to pursue when the suspect is already traveling at excessive speeds.

(Flag my first attempt please!)

HenryT2 | 05/07/2014

I'm curious as to how the car was "ripped in half". Now, I understand 100mph is fast enough to rip most cars into half, but with the Model S battery compartment, I would think the front and back of the car would sheer off before the middle would "rip".

It looks like, from what little can be seen in photos of the crash, that most of the front is completely intact and the rear of the car, including the motor and rear passenger seats, but not including the battery, was torn apart.

If the driver had been wearing his seatbelt, he would probably be alive (passenger status whether he was actually wearing his belt currently unknown), but the rear passengers would be dead.

This concerns me as I transport my children in this car and want to feel that the backseats are as safe as the front. Seems like American car safety standards give less attention to the rear passenger seats and it is reflected in the design specs.

I'm not an engineer so I have no idea what kind of structural stresses cars go through at these speeds. It seems like the front is well protected, but the rear seat, with the motor and rear wheels separated in this particular crash. I wonder if Tesla has designed the Model S with maximum consideration of keeping the entire passenger cabin intact in extreme scenarios or gave more emphasis on the front seats. As in previous discussions of the rear head rest not providing enough protection for rear seat passengers, perhaps they have also "skimped" on protection for the rear seat in cabin integrity?

NomoDinos | 05/07/2014

Henry - There are still conflicting reports, but the most recent articles I've read indicated that the driver is still alive. Reports of his death initially were because he needed CPR at the scene.

oildeathspiral | 05/07/2014


Great points. I think Elon has made somewhat similar points but it took your post to really sink in. To go a step further, the typically longer range of an ICE means that it can have 1.5-2 times as much fuel in it than a MS.

Never realized that a shorter range means a safer car should there be a catastrophic accident.

AmpedRealtor | 05/07/2014

So a Leaf would be safer? Doubt it.

akikiki | 05/07/2014


"Why the thief decided to steal a car from the center,
but not a private car?" Could it be targets of opportunity
were more abundant at the SC than finding one Model S on the street?

"Could it be because there was some generic pin he was able to hack, before it was personalized by the owner? Or could it be the fact that generic pin gives him extra time before the exact VIN is identified and blocked?"

What in the world are you referring to? What PIN?
Personalized by the owner? Generic PIN?
VIN is identified and blocked? Blocked by who to do what?

"How would have Tesla team known that if there was
no some sort of built in control?"
Security cameras in the SC. Configured to trip and notify the
SC Manager. Then he could see there were unauthorized persons (thieves)inside the SC messing around with the cars.

"but remember the very minute you are trying to do that police will know about it. So that finding the exact VIN is matter of minutes"
Are you telling us that the police know which car/VIN we each have?

@Jewsh +1

@CT-Greg Strongly suggest they switch..." Why? Based on what?
So, you would have Tesla stop what they are doing and change OS?
Start all over? No advancement in features while they start over?

Was there some guarantee from TM that the car it was impossible to steal one of these cars?

@georgehawley, even if the police knew it was trackable, how would they track it? Do you think someone at Tesla would have given the police the userid and password (if they knew it) of the owners car so they could login to that account via iphone or android app to track it?

I don't know about you, but I didn't sign anything authorizing TM its okay to give the police my userid and password if they need it to find my car.

TM has already been asked and answered that currently they can not disable a stolen car.

Mark K | 05/07/2014

My takeaway -

If I were unlucky enough to strike a narrow steel cleaver at 100+ MPH, I think I'd want to be in a Tesla. | 05/07/2014


I think the "in half" piece is a bit of the misnomer--from what I can tell, it looks like the car separated at the C-pillar not the B-pillar, which would make a bit more sense since that is about where the battery pack ends and the drive unit is.

O | 05/07/2014

@HenryT2 - You're best assumption should be that you'll die if you're in a crash at 100 MPH in any car no matter how it happens. The fact that the driver may have survived is quite incredible. The crash in Mexico where the driver was going 100+ MPH walked away from it. I would bet 99% of other cars would have been fatal. Government crash testing is done at 40 MPH or less, and a lot of cars fair badly at 40 MPH - let alone 100 MPH where the energy is far greater. | 05/07/2014

Amazing reading this thread and the outlandish postulation about what happened.

I know people feel they want to comment, BUT, most of what is being put forth about concerns or what needs to be done is just BS, based on no facts by people that, in most cases, aren't qualified to make these judgements even if they had the facts.

There are clearly some limited observations of value that can be made. The last thing I want is to listen to the hysteria being generated by a number of you. There are clearly some improvements in a number of areas we would like to see, but waiting until the facts of this incident become known (if they ever do) would be prudent.

Mark Z | 05/07/2014

For those confused by the PIN discussion, please read my post on page 1 of the thread. My suggestion was for an optional PIN. Nothing forced on anyone. I too have concern that a future PIN could be compromised. The best solution for Tesla Service is to put the key FOBs in a safe during non-business hours.

Keep in mind that Tesla Motors uses a PIN for diagnostics, so the software for technician PIN entry using the center console exists today. Tesla Motors could use that interface for security if they choose.