- The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is investigating the circumstances around a Tesla Model S that crashed into a fire-department vehicle in South Jordan, Utah.
- The driver told the police she was using the vehicle’s Autopilot feature at the time of the crash and had been looking at her phone.
- Federal agencies are looking into several other recent collisions involving Tesla vehicles, some of which occurred while the Autopilot semiautonomous driving technology was activated.
- Because of the technology’s limitations, Tesla advises drivers to keep their hands on the steering wheel while using Autopilot.
A Tesla Model S that crashed into a fire-department vehicle in South Jordan, Utah, last Friday has gotten the attention of agents at the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
The federal agency has sent a team to investigate the crash. The 28-year-old driver told the police she was using Tesla’s semiautonomous driving technology, Autopilot, and was using her phone at the time of the crash.
“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,” a statement from the agency said, adding that the agency would take “appropriate action” based on its findings.
This latest investigation follows a spate of collisions involving Tesla vehicles in recent months.
The National Transportation Safety Board is investigating four separate collisions involving Tesla vehicles equipped with Autopilot. An NTSB representative reached by Business Insider on Wednesday evening said the agency was not involved with the investigation in South Jordan.
Many of the crashes in which Autopilot was active have made for some unflattering headlines, much to the chagrin of Tesla CEO Elon Musk and some of the electric-car company’s fans. But the incidents suggest there is a broader misunderstanding about Autopilot’s limitations.
The semiautonomous driving technology requires drivers to keep their hands on the steering wheel, even when Autopilot is in use.
The feature has a limited ability to decipher road markings that keep Tesla vehicles centered in traffic lanes, and its functionality can vary depending on other road and weather conditions. Autopilot cannot cause Tesla vehicles to drive themselves without some input and oversight from the occupant in the driver’s seat.