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Tesla officials: Woman’s use of autopilot before South Jordan crash was not ‘proper’

By Jacob Klopfenstein, KSL.com | Posted - May 16th, 2018 @ 5:47pm



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SOUTH JORDAN — A Lehi woman who was driving a Tesla Model S had her hands off the steering wheel for 80 seconds before the car slammed into a Unified Fire Authority vehicle on Friday, a Tesla investigation has revealed.

The car was in the autosteer and cruise control modes at the time of the crash, according to a Tesla investigation detailed in an emailed report from South Jordan Police Sgt. Samuel Winkler.

The crash took place about 6:38 p.m. Friday near 10400 South Bangerter Highway in South Jordan. The 28-year-old woman, who police have not yet named, was cited for failure to keep proper lookout following the crash, according to Winkler.

The woman was taken to a hospital with a broken right foot. The driver of the UFA vehicle was treated at the scene for whiplash injuries but was not transported to a hospital, Winkler said.

Tesla drivers are “repeatedly advised” that the autopilot features do not make the cars completely autonomous, according to the report.

Drivers should remain vigilant, keep their eyes on the road and keep their hands on the wheel while autopilot features are enabled, Tesla officials said in the report. They also must be ready to take action to avoid road hazards, officials said.

Tesla officials recovered data from the vehicle after the crash, according to the report.

The woman had enabled the autosteer and cruise control features on the car multiple times during the drive, Tesla officials found. She canceled and re-enabled them several times, and she changed the car’s cruising speed.

She had her hands off the steering wheel more than a dozen times during the drive, including two separate times where her hands were off the wheel for more than a minute, Tesla officials said.

The car was traveling at 60 miles per hour during the crash, which is the speed the driver chose, officials said. She pressed the brake pedal a fraction of a second before the impact, Tesla officials found.

“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,” Tesla officials said in the report.

The driver was cited based on the findings of Tesla’s investigation, according to Winkler. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration also investigated the crash, Winkler said.

People who drive semi-autonomous cars are still responsible for staying alert, driving safely and being in control of the vehicle while on the road, according to Winkler.

Drivers also should consult the car’s owner manual to see if the car’s autopilot technology can be used on the road, he said.

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Jacob Klopfenstein, KSL.com

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Updated: Friday May 25, 2018 10:37 pm