Tesla confirms Utah driver engaged autopilot functions before slamming into firetruck

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On more than a dozen occasions, the auto is said to have registered a total absence of hands on its wheel, and twice for periods exceeding a minute in length.

According to Tesla data shared by South Jordan police in a statement, the driver repeatedly engaged and disengaged Tesla's Autosteer and Traffic Aware Cruise Control on multiple occasions while traveling around suburbs south of Salt Lake City.

The driver had previously told police that she had engaged the autopilot and was "looking at her phone prior to the collision".

When the 28-year-old woman ultimately smashed the Model S sedan into the fire truck stopped at a red light on a highway on May 11, her hands had been off the wheel for more than a minute, police said, citing Tesla.

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.

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Now the NHTSA is also announcing that it will investigate the accident, but only for data gathering as a "special crash".

During this "drive cycle", the Model S registered "more than a dozen instances of her hands being off the steering wheel".

Police told FOX 13 that the woman reported she was using the car's autopilot feature at the time of the crash, which happened on Bangerter Highway and 10400 S around 6:30 p.m. that day.

She and the fire truck driver received minor injuries, police said.

A broken ankle and a traffic citation for failure to keep proper lookout serve as the driver's comeuppance for neglecting to keep attention on the road.

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The Autopilot system includes visual and audio warnings to drivers when they remove their hands from the 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.

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. The report said she took her hands off the steering wheel "within two seconds" of engaging the system and then did not touch the steering wheel for the next 80 seconds, until the crash happened.

The National Transportation Safety Board, a separate government agency that looks into accidents and makes safety recommendations, has said it is not investigating the Utah crash.

Meanwhile, NHTSA investigators are still scrutinizing the conditions leading to fatal wreck in March in California, where Tesla's Autopilot system was in use.

The driver re-enabled Autopilot 1 minute and 22 seconds before the crash, let go of the wheel 2 seconds later and then didn't touch the wheel again before hitting the truck at 60 miles per hour (97 kph).

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