The driver of the Tesla Model S told police the vehicle was in Autopilot, a semi-autonomous mode, and that she was staring at her phone when the sedan plowed into the back of a Utah fire department truck stopped at a red light. "Tesla has always been clear that Autopilot doesn't make the auto impervious to all accidents".
"The vehicle registered more than a dozen instances of her hands being off the steering wheel in this drive cycle", according to Tesla's report.
The electric auto company cautions drivers to keep their hands on the wheel and remain vigilant even while the vehicle is in semi-autonomous mode. She then allegedly only placed her hands back on the wheel after being cued to do so by the automobile, both times removing them again after the alert went away.
Technicians at the electric-car maker have recovered data from the Model S driven by a 28-year-old woman who crashed her Model S on Friday, police in South Jordan, Utah, Tesla said in an emailed statement. "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". Against eyewitness reports, the car's computer did reportedly register brake pedal application, as well as her hands' return to the wheel, but the reaction was too little, too late. "What's actually unbelievable about this accident is that a Model S hit a fire truck at 60mph", Musk explained, "and the driver only broke an ankle".
The incident happened in South Jordan, Utah is now attracting attention from across the nation, as the driver said that Autopilot was enabled on the vehicle when the crash happened. An NTSB representative reached by Business Insider on Wednesday evening said the agency was not involved with the investigation in South Jordan.
About 1 minute and 22 seconds before the crash, she re-enabled Autosteer and Cruise Control, and then, within two seconds, took her hands off the steering wheel again.
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"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.
Police issued the driver a traffic citation for failure to keep proper lookout.
Federal agencies are looking into several other recent collisions involving Tesla vehicles, some of which occurred while the Autopilot semiautonomous driving technology was activated. "An impact at that speed usually results in severe injury or death". A special crash investigation team has been launched. It marks at least the third investigation into crashes involving the company's cars since March.
The aftermath of the Tesla Model S crash in Utah.
But during an earnings conference call this month, Musk indicated a fully autonomous - as in hands-free - version of Autopilot is close to release.