SOUTH JORDAN — Data recovered from a Tesla that was driven at 60 mph into a Unified Fire Authority vehicle stopped at an intersection last Friday confirms the driver had engaged the vehicle's autopilot system, police said Wednesday.
The driver had previously told police that she had engaged the autopilot and was "looking at her phone prior to the collision."
South Jordan police Sgt. Sam Winkler said the driver in the incident, a 28-year-old Lehi woman who has not been identified, was issued a citation for "failure to keep proper lookout."
The woman suffered a broken foot and some abrasions from the air bag deployment but, according to police, escaped relatively unscathed from the crash that demolished the front end of the Tesla. The driver of the Unified fire vehicle was examined for whiplash-related injuries at the scene but was not taken to the hospital for treatment.
Tesla technicians offered some further details of the accident, based on data recovered from the vehicle and analyzed at the company's Palo Alto, California, headquarters. South Jordan police released those findings Wednesday, which include:
• "The vehicle registered more than a dozen instances of the driver's 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 one 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 Tesla report also noted that instructions provided to drivers about their vehicle's automation features expressly instruct that they maintain attention, and hands on the wheel, at all times.
"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 report read.
A Tesla spokeswoman declined to comment on what steps the company may take following the incident, but reiterated in a statement that the Tesla autopilot feature does not relieve a driver from the responsibility to stay closely engaged with the vehicle's operation.14 comments on this story
"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 spokeswoman said. "Tesla has always been clear that Autopilot doesn't make the car impervious to all accidents."
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."
The administration did not immediately respond to a Deseret News request for further information on the nature of that investigation.