The owner of a Tesla Model S recently survived a catastrophic collision with an errant three-pronged trailer hitch while doing 70 MPH on the Interstate, and wrote an account of his adventure for Tesla Motors' website. The tale tells of a chillingly smart warning system built into the full-size hatchback, a granite-solid undercarriage, and a seemingly fireproof cabin.
The driver, a medical doctor in Tennessee, was following a truck before the collision occurred. The truck cleared the trailer hitch that had been abandoned in the right lane of the highway, but the driver couldn't swerve quickly enough and the Tesla did not clear it. The ball of the hitch slammed into the undercarriage, sending the car a small ways into the air.
The driver continued for 30-45 seconds hoping to make it home before checking out the damage, but just then a warning appeared on the dashboard display advising the driver that the car "needs service" and "may not start." A minute later, the dashboard instructed him to pull over because the car was shutting down. So he did. He gathered some of his personal belongings, evacuated the vehicle, and walked away.
Two minutes later, the smoke that was billowing out from under the Model S became flames, and the whole front of the car was on fire. The fire department arrived and put out the fire. The driver, one Juris Shibayama, MD, was able to gather the rest of his belongings from the cabin, which was still in pristine condition. He was even able to recover some paperwork from the glove compartment.
Later, an assistant reported to Shibayama that the hitch had ground a gouge into the highway when the Tesla dragged it along for a bit before surmounting and passing over it. Sounds like a somewhat robust undercarriage, no? Nonetheless, the car was unusable after the event.
"I am thankful to God that I was totally uninjured in any way from this impact," Shibayama wrote. "Had I not been in a Tesla, that object could have punched through the floor and caused me serious harm."
SOURCE: Tesla Motors