Tesla Crash Gets U.S. Scrutiny as Police Confirm Autopilot Use

(Bloomberg) -- Tesla Inc. confirmed to police that another of its vehicles crashed with a driver using Autopilot, and the incident triggered more scrutiny by federal regulators.

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, said in an emailed statement. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration announced earlier that the agency had sent its special crash investigations team to gather information.

The driver didn’t touch the steering wheel for the 80 seconds leading up to colliding with a fire mechanic truck at about 60 miles per hour, according to Tesla’s report to police. The driver said she was looking at her phone prior to the crash and was issued a citation.

“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. “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.”

While Tesla’s report cast blame on the driver, the company hasn’t adopted systems that automakers including General Motors Co. have to monitor whether drivers are paying attention while using partially autonomous technology. Chief Executive Officer Elon Musk tweeted this week that the company has rejected eye-tracking technology due to ineffectiveness. GM features it in Cadillac models equipped its Super Cruise system.

Read more: Carmakers struggle to keep drivers of automated cars engaged

The driver used Autopilot on a street with no center median and with stop light-controlled intersections, which is “contrary to the proper use” of the system, according to Tesla’s report to police.

“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,” the company said in an emailed statement. “Tesla has always been clear that Autopilot doesn’t make the car impervious to all accidents.”

NHTSA will take “appropriate action” based on its review of the crash, an agency spokesman said Wednesday in an email. Its probe is the latest by federal transportation agencies into a series of recent accidents involving Tesla vehicles.

NHTSA investigators are also reviewing a Tesla that crashed in January near Los Angeles and fatal crash earlier this month in Florida.

The National Transportation Safety Board also is probing those crashes, in addition to a March fatality in Northern California.

Read more: A timeline on the fallout from the fatal March crash

Another probe is in process overseas. Prosecutors in the southern Swiss region of Ticino are investigating last week’s death of a German driver whose Tesla caught fire on the highway after what the company said appeared to be a high-speed crash.

©2018 Bloomberg L.P.

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