United States safety agency sends team to investigate Tesla crash


USA safety regulators have launched investigation into a crash in Utah that occurred when a Tesla Model S plowed into a fire department vehicle while it was on "autopilot" mode, the media reported.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is investigating the circumstances around a Tesla Model S that crashed into a fire-department vehicle in South Jordan, Utah.

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.

A Tesla spokesperson issued a statement saying the company makes it clear Autopilot is not meant to serve as self-driving technology and that drivers must remain engaged with the vehicle at all times.

"About 1 minute and 22 seconds before the crash, she re-enabled Autosteer and Cruise Control, and then, within seconds, took her hands off the steering wheel again", the police report says.

Earlier this week, Tesla CEO Elon Musk criticized the media for how they reported on the crash. Tesla says the system is not created to avoid a collision and warns drivers not to rely on it entirely.

A Tesla Model S is seen after it hit the back of a mechanic truck from the Unified Fire Authority in this traffic collision in South Jordan, Utah, U.S., May 11, 2018. They said that the vehicle registered over a dozen instances of her hands off the steering wheel.

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Tesla's semi-autonomous Autopilot system is supposed to detect nearby cars and objects to avoid collisions, but the company said the feature shouldn't be used on roads with intersections, stop signs, red lights or suddenly changing traffic patterns, according to the vehicle maker's user manuals. 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 auto.

According to the report, the Tesla was traveling at 60 miles per hour at the time of the crash, and the driver braked "fractions of a second" prior to the crash. The driver finally touched the brake pedal "a second prior to the crash".

In a statement to the Deseret News, South Jordan Police Sgt. Sam Winkler stated that the driver of the electric auto had been looking at her smartphone because she was searching for an alternate route.

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

In this case though, while I doubt it will be reported like that, the NHTSA is not looking into a potential defect with Autopilot, but it is only gathering data from the crash.

Tesla's Autopilot system is a focal point of an ongoing NTSB investigation about a Model X crash near Mountain View, CA.

Both NHTSA and the National Transportation Safety Board assisted local police in the investigation. The probe marked the federal agency's fourth active investigation into the electric auto maker's vehicles.