Science

Tesla driver had her hands off wheel before crash

Tesla driver had her hands off wheel before crash

On two occasions, the driver had her hands off the wheel for more than a minute each time, reengaging briefly with the steering wheel only after a visual alert from the vehicle.

Information recovered by Tesla engineers and shared with South Jordan police confirms numerous details the driver, a 28-year-old woman from Lehi, Utah, shared with investigators after her auto slammed into a stopped fire truck at 60 miles per hour.

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.

Although the driver miraculously only sustained a broken foot, the potential for lethal consequences was present when considering the decimation of the Tesla's front end.

"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.

"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". She then allegedly only placed her hands back on the wheel after being cued to do so by the automobile, both times removing them again after the alert went away. The family of driver Walter Huang alleged that he had taken the auto in to the dealer several times, and had complained that Autopilot kept steering him toward the same barrier he ended up hitting.

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"About 1 minute and 22 seconds before the crash, she re-enabled Autosteer and Cruise Control, and then, within seconds, took her hands off the steering wheel again", the police report says. The driver of the fire truck suffered minor whiplash. Witnesses told police the driver of the Tesla did not brake or make any attempt to avoid the collision. Against eyewitness reports, the car's computer did reportedly register brake pedal application, as well as her hands' return to the wheel, but the reaction was too little, too late.

Police issued the driver a traffic citation for failure to keep proper lookout.

For Tesla, the incident may not be over as the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has opened its own investigation into the crash.

It's unclear if that system activated before the Utah crash. After a fatal Tesla Model X crash on Highway 101 in Mountain View in March, Tesla reported that the driver of that vehicle had been warned repeatedly during the trip to put his hands on the wheel, and that his hands were not detected on the wheel for six seconds before the collision.

Meanwhile, the National Transportation Safety Board stated that it is not investigating the Utah crash.

The SCI also collects relevant data like vehicle, occupants, injury mechanisms, roadway, and safety systems, which are all obtained from 100 crashes that they will study annually, according to the NHTSA.


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