A fatal crash involving four vehicles on a German highway did not involve a self-driving car, BMW said on Tuesday, refuting a police statement that had questioned whether the driver had been actively steering the vehicle at the time.
A spokesman for police in the southwestern town of Reutlingen said the electric BMW iX with five people on board, including a young child, swerved out of its lane at a bend in the road, triggering a series of collisions involving four vehicles on Monday afternoon.
A 33-year-old woman was killed and nine other people, including the 43-year-old driver of the BMW and his 18-month-old passenger, were seriously injured.
After brushing an oncoming Citroen, the BMW hit a Mercedes-Benz van head-on, resulting in the death of its passenger.
The 70-year-old driver of the Citroen lost control of her car and crashed into another vehicle with two people on board, pushing it off the road and causing it to burst into flames.
Reutlingen police spokesman Michael Schaal said four rescue helicopters and dozens of firefighters responded to the incident and the injured were taken to several hospitals in the region.
Traffic police have launched an investigation into the cause of the incident, which police said involved an autonomous test vehicle.
No self-driving capabilities, says BMW
"The crash vehicle was an autonomous electric test car," police said in a statement. "Whether it was being steered by the 43-year-old (driver) or not is the subject of investigation".
BMW confirmed that the crash had involved one of its test models but said the car in question had no self-driving capabilities.
"The vehicle has a level 2 driving assistance system that is already incorporated in production vehicles today and which can support the driver on demand," the company said.
"With level 2 vehicles the driver always retains responsibility".
Such systems can brake automatically, accelerate and, unlike Level 1 systems, take over steering, according to BMW's website.
BMW added that the vehicle was required to be marked as a test car for data protection purposes because it was recording footage.
"We are in the process of investigating the exact circumstances (of the crash)," BMW said. "Of course, we are in close contact with authorities".
The carmaker said it was in close contact with the authorities to establish the exact circumstances of the crash.