US Auto Safety Agency Is Probing Utah Crash of Tesla on Autopilot

2019 Honda Insight 2018 New York auto show

2019 Honda Insight 2018 New York auto show Enlarge

The National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration confirmed Wednesday that it has sent a team of special crash investigators to look into a Tesla Model S that plowed into a fire department vehicle in Utah while its semi-autonomous driving system Autopilot was engaged. The truck had been stopped at a red light. "Each time she put her hands back on the wheel, she took them back off the wheel after a few seconds".

The Tesla report also noted that instructions provided to drivers about their vehicle's automation features expressly instruct that they maintain attention, and hands on the wheel, at all times.

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. The driver, who sustained a broken right ankle, told police that her vehicle was in autopilot mode and failed to brake before the violent impact decimated its front end.

"Every driver is responsible for remaining alert and active when using Autopilot, and must be prepared to take action at any time", the company states on its website. On two occasions, the driver had her hands off the wheel for more than a minute each time, reengaging briefly with the steering wheel only after a visual alert from the vehicle. She did not touch the steering wheel for the next 80 seconds until the crash happened; this is consistent with her admission that she was looking at her phone at the time.

Sharing details about how Tesla Model 3 has earned the "superior" rating for the front crash prevention tests, IIHS has revealed that the vehicle passed the 12 miles per hour and 25 miles per hour front crash prevention tests by successfully avoiding a crash at both the speed levels.

The driver manually pressed the vehicle brake pedal fractions of a second prior to the crash. Autopilot self-driving capabilities of the Tesla were not expected to be involved, the NTSB said.

Last week, NHTSA also said it would probe a May 8 Tesla accident in Florida that killed two teenagers and injured another.

The National Transportation Safety Board said it is not investigating the Utah crash. The vehicle was in autopilot mode when it slammed into a median on Highway 101 in Mountain View, Calif.

The agency said the fire, which may have been exacerbated by the vehicle's battery, is the focus of the investigation, not the vehicle's semiautonomous system.

More: Your fancy new vehicle steers and brakes for you; so why keep your hands on the wheel?

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