Published: Thu, May 17, 2018
Sci-tech | By Carrie Guzman

NHTSA Probes Tesla Car Crash in Utah

NHTSA Probes Tesla Car Crash in Utah

A Utah driver turned on the semi-autonomous Autopilot functions of her Tesla vehicle and then didn't touch the steering wheel again for 80 seconds before slamming into a firetruck stopped at a red light last week, a summary of data from the auto released Wednesday showed.

According to the data gathered by Tesla and released by South Jordan Police, the driver took her hands off the car's steering wheel more than a dozen times, and, on two occasions, her hands were off the wheel for more than a minute. The 28-year-old driver, who said she was going about 60 miles per hour, sustained a broken ankle while the truck's driver suffered minor injuries.

The driver manually pressed the vehicle brake pedal fractions of a second prior to the crash.

"When using Autopilot, drivers are continuously reminded of their responsibility to keep their hands on the wheel and maintain control of the vehicle at all times", said a Tesla spokeswoman.

The National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration sent a team of special crash investigators to investigate the May 11 crash, the Fortune reported on Wednesday.

Although the driver miraculously only sustained a broken foot, the potential for lethal consequences was present when considering the decimation of the Tesla's front end.

She and the fire truck driver received minor injuries, police said. On more than a dozen occasions, the vehicle is said to have registered a total absence of hands on its wheel, and twice for periods exceeding a minute in length.

Police issued the driver a traffic citation for failure to keep proper lookout.

"Tesla has always been clear that Autopilot doesn't make the vehicle impervious to all accidents", the statement said.

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According to Tesla data shared by South Jordan police in a statement, the driver repeatedly engaged and disengaged Tesla's Autosteer and Traffic Aware Cruise Control on multiple occasions while traveling around suburbs south of Salt Lake City.

Police in South Jordan said based on these findings, the woman was given ticket.

Tesla's Autopilot relies on a system of radar, cameras with 360-degree visibility and sensors to detect nearby objects and perform basic functions such as parking and steering.

With those types of crashes, people often bring up the fact that there's a defect because the automatic emergency braking (AEB) system didn't prevent the crash, but it is not created to stop crashes in all conditions. Tesla says the system is not created to avoid a collision and warns drivers not to rely on it entirely.

This is the most recent investigation by federal regulators into the latest accidents that involve Tesla-made vehicles.

It is the third Tesla crash since January that the NHTSA is investigating that may have been linked to autopilot.

The NTSB said it has not opened an investigation into the Utah crash.

This photo provided by Tesla shows a 2017 Tesla Model 3, a vehicle that has a semiautonomous driving system called Autopilot.

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