Safety agency to investigate Tesla crash in Utah

Tesla 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.

In a statement Wednesday, Tesla said that drivers are repeatedly warned to keep their hands on the wheel and maintain control of their vehicle at all times.

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

The driver of the Tesla Model S is a 28-year-old female, who hit the fire truck from behind at around 60 miles per hour.

NHTSA is also investigating a fatal crash in March that involved a Tesla Model X using Autopilot.

The police said the Tesla Model S during that day's trip registered more than a dozen instances of the driver's hands being off the steering wheel. "Based upon witness information, the driver of the Tesla did not brake or take any action to avoid the collision", a statement from South Jordan Police said.

South Jordan police said the Tesla report brings the investigation to a conclusion, but also indicated that the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration had "sent an investigation team to Utah to conduct their own review of this incident".

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According to local media, police said the woman at the wheel of the vehicle claimed it was in a self-driving mode and that her attention was on her phone. According to the summary released by police, the driver pressed on the brake herself "fractions of a second prior to the crash" and the auto had not slowed down from the speed she had set for cruise control.

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 auto maker's user manuals.

Some automakers, such as Cadillac, have driver assist system that only function if maps indicate that the vehicle is traveling on a route, typically a highway, that is compatible with a auto taking over some driving duties. She was issued a traffic infraction for failing to keep proper lookout. The agencies are looking into the fire that resulted from the electric car's batteries igniting.

It is at least the second Tesla crash linked to the semi-autonomous Autopilot system being investigated by the government agency since January.

Last week, NHTSA also said it would probe a May 8 Tesla accident in Florida that killed two teenagers and injured another. The probe marked the federal agency's fourth active investigation into the electric auto maker's vehicles.

Follow USA TODAY tech writer Marco della Cava on Twitter.

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