Feds Investigate Tesla Crash that Killed Retired California Couple

Steve Huff
Steve Huff is an Editor and Reporter at dot.LA. Steve was previously managing editor for The Metaverse Post and before that deputy digital editor for Maxim magazine. He has written for Inside Hook, Observer and New York Mag. Steve is the author of two official tie-ins books for AMC’s hit “Breaking Bad” prequel, “Better Call Saul.” He’s also a classically-trained tenor and has performed with opera companies and orchestras all over the Eastern U.S. He lives in the greater Boston metro area with his wife, educator Dr. Dana Huff.
Interior view of Tesla car

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has begun an investigation into the circumstances surrounding the deaths of Lompoc, CA retirees Mary Lou Seelandt, 66, and her husband, Karl Seelandt, 67. The couple died July 6 at a Florida rest stop after their 2015 Tesla plowed into the rear of a parked semi.

Based on the Florida Highway Patrol’s report on the crash, the couple was driving south around 2 p.m. on Interstate 75 when they exited at a rest stop. The exit lane forked, with cars directed one way and trucks the other. The Seelandt’s Tesla swerved in the wrong direction, toward the trucks — where it rammed into a parked trailer. The couple was killed at the scene.

Investigators told local media they weren’t certain that the Tesla’s autopilot was engaged when the vehicle struck the semi, but on July 13 the Orlando Sentinel reported that the Seelandt family had retained the services of Morgan & Morgan, which touts itself as “America’s largest injury law firm.” The firm also has a page dedicated entirely to Tesla Self-Driving Car Accidents, which says in part that “self-driving Teslas have been involved in several deadly accidents over the past few years, raising questions about Autopilot’s safety, Tesla’s marketing language, and the discrepancy between the two.”

Attorneys Mike Morgan and Josh Moore told the Sentinel that they are “in the very early stages of our investigation to determine what caused this deadly collision and have requested Tesla preserve all evidence related to this matter.”

In June this year, the NHTSA published a report on its “Standing General Order on Crash Reporting for Level 2 Advanced Driver Assistance Systems.” This order, issued in June 2021, required “identified manufacturers and operators … to report to the agency certain crashes involving vehicles equipped with SAE Level 2 Advanced Driver Assistance Systems (ADAS).”

According to the NHTSA, 367 crashes occurred between July 2021 and May this year in vehicles equipped with some form of autopilot software. During that period, California had more than any other state — 125. The top carmakers on this unfortunate list were Tesla, with 273 crashes, then Honda and Subaru, respectively. Fortunately, most injuries from these crashes were minor, though there were five recorded serious injuries and six recorded deaths.

California-based EV maker Lucid Motors only listed one autopilot-related accident, and Irvine’s Rivian wasn’t on the list at all.

The United States averages around 6 million car crashes a year, so 367 possibly autopilot-related wrecks seem vanishingly small by comparison. But as companies continue testing self-driving vehicles on California roads, precision and predictability seem more important than ever. dot.la has reached out to the NHTSA for further comment on the agency's investigations and will update once we receive a response.

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Astrolab's New SpaceX-backed Rover Could Change Space Exploration Forever

Lon Harris
Lon Harris is a contributor to dot.LA. His work has also appeared on ScreenJunkies, RottenTomatoes and Inside Streaming.
Astrolab's New SpaceX-backed Rover Could Change Space Exploration Forever
Photo by Samson Amore

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Local Los Angeles-area startup Astrolab Inc. has designed a new lunar vehicle called FLEX, short for Flexible Logistics and Exploration Rover. About the size of a Jeep Wrangler, FLEX is designed to move cargo around the surface of the moon on assignment. It’s a bit larger than NASA’s Mars rovers, like Perseverance, but as it’s designed for transport and mobility rather than precision measurement, it can travel much faster, at speeds of up to 15 miles per hour across the lunar surface.

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Meet the Creator Economy’s Version of LinkedIn

Kristin Snyder

Kristin Snyder is dot.LA's 2022/23 Editorial Fellow. She previously interned with Tiger Oak Media and led the arts section for UCLA's Daily Bruin.

Meet the Creator Economy’s Version of LinkedIn

This is the web version of dot.LA’s daily newsletter. Sign up to get the latest news on Southern California’s tech, startup and venture capital scene.

LinkedIn hasn’t caught on with Gen Z—in fact, 96% rarely use their existing account.

Considering 25% of young people want to be full-time content creators and most influencers aren’t active on LinkedIn, traditional networking sites aren’t likely to meet these needs.

Enter CreatorLand.

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This Week in ‘Raises’: Total Network Services Gains $9M, Autio Secures $5.9M

Decerry Donato

Decerry Donato is a reporter at dot.LA. Prior to that, she was an editorial fellow at the company. Decerry received her bachelor's degree in literary journalism from the University of California, Irvine. She continues to write stories to inform the community about issues or events that take place in the L.A. area. On the weekends, she can be found hiking in the Angeles National forest or sifting through racks at your local thrift store.

This Week in ‘Raises’: Total Network Services Gains $9M, Autio Secures $5.9M
This Week in ‘Raises’:

It has been a slow week in funding, but a local decentralized computing network managed to land $9 million to accelerate deployment of its new product called Universal Communication Identifier (UCID™). Another local company that secured capital included Kevin Costner’s location-based audio storytelling platform and the funding will go toward expanding the app’s content library and expanding into additional regions in the United States.

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