Tesla provides details on recent Autopilot crash amid NHTSA investigation

Tesla has released its findings about the recent Model S Autopilot crash in South Jordan, Utah. The accident, which involved a Model S crashing into a parked firetruck at 60 mph last Friday, is currently under investigation by the NHTSA. The driver of the Model S, a 28-year-old Lehi woman who escaped the collision with a broken ankle, later stated that the car had been on Autopilot when the accident happened.

Technicians from the electric car company have issued their findings after retrieving the vehicle’s logs. Here are the conclusions from Tesla’s report.

  • The driver engaged Autosteer and Traffic Aware Cruise Control on multiple occasions during this drive cycle. She repeatedly canceled and then re-engaged these features, and regularly adjusted the vehicle’s cruising speed.
  • Drivers are repeatedly advised Autopilot features do not make Tesla vehicles “autonomous” and that the driver absolutely must remain vigilant with their eyes on the road, hands on the wheel and they must be prepared to take any and all action necessary to avoid hazards on the road.
  • The vehicle registered more than a dozen instances of her hands being off the steering wheel in this drive cycle. On two such occasions, she had her hands off the wheel for more than one minute each time and her hands came back on only after a visual alert was provided. Each time she put her hands back on the wheel, she took them back off the wheel after a few seconds.
  • 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. 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.
  • The vehicle was traveling at about 60 mph when the crash happened. This is the speed the driver selected.
  • The driver manually pressed the vehicle brake pedal fractions of a second prior to the crash.
  • Contrary to the proper use of Autopilot, the driver did not pay attention to the road at all times, did not keep her hands on the steering wheel, and she used it on a street with no center median and with stoplight-controlled intersections.

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

“She looked up just as the accident was about to happen,” Winkler said.

Police have issued the Model S driver with a traffic citation due to her “failure to keep a proper lookout.” The citation was issued to the Model S driver this Wednesday.

The NHTSA has opened an investigation on the accident on Wednesday as well. In an emailed statement to CNBC News, the NHTSA noted that it is deploying a special investigation team to gather information about the accident.

“Consistent with NHTSA’s oversight and authority over the safety of all motor vehicles and equipment, the agency has launched its special crash investigations team to gather information on the South Jordan, Utah, crash. NHTSA will take appropriate action based on its review,” the NHTSA wrote.

Tesla CEO Elon Musk has commented on the crash through his personal Twitter account, stating that what’s noteworthy about the accident was that the driver of the vehicle only broke an ankle despite crashing into a firetruck at 60 mph. Musk noted that such accidents at such speeds “usually result in severe injury or death.” In a later tweet, however, Musk stated that Autopilot does need to get better.

Tesla’s Autopilot system is a focal point of an ongoing NTSB investigation about a Model X crash near Mountain View, CA. During that incident, the Model X smashed into a bare crash attenuator while traveling at highway speeds, resulting in the tragic loss of its driver. Tesla and the NTSB ultimately parted ways as the investigation proceeded, mainly due to the electric car maker’s release of data pertaining to the crash before the NTSB’s investigation was complete.

Tesla provides details on recent Autopilot crash amid NHTSA investigation
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