Tesla data show driver took her hands off wheel before Utah crash

The Tesla driver said she had been looking at her phone while using Autopilot.

May 17, 2018, 5:14 AM

Police said the driver who crashed her Tesla into the back of a stopped fire truck in Utah last week had her hands off the steering wheel at the time, confirming the woman's claim that vehicle's Autopilot feature was engaged.

The 28-year-old had her hands off the wheel for 80 seconds up until the May 11 crash in South Jordan, Utah, police said Wednesday, citing Tesla’s official crash report.

Data recovered from the woman's Tesla Model S showed more than a dozen instances where she had taken her hands off of the steering wheel during the drive cycle before the crash, according to the South Jordan Police Department.

"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," the report said. "Each time she put her hands back on the wheel, she took them back off the wheel after a few seconds."

Tesla also reiterated information listed in its drivers' manuals in its crash report, noting that drivers "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."

Police in South Jordan, about 17 miles south of Salt Lake City, did not reveal the woman's identity but said the she had been issued a citation for failing to keep proper lookout while operating a vehicle.

The woman sustained minor injuries, including a broken ankle, while the truck driver suffered from injuries related to whiplash, police said. The Tesla had extensive damage and was barely recognizable.

The Utah accident came just days after the National Transportation Safety Board said it was investigating another Tesla accident that killed two South Florida teens and injured another. The probe marked the federal agency’s fourth active investigation into the electric car maker's vehicles.

Tesla’s semi-autonomous Autopilot system is supposed to detect nearby cars and objects to avoid collisions, but the company said the feature shouldn't be used on roads with intersections, stop signs, red lights or suddenly changing traffic patterns, according to the car maker's user manuals.

"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 company said in a statement Wednesday. "Tesla has always been clear that Autopilot doesn't make the car impervious to all accidents."

ABC News' Jeffrey Cook contributed to this report.

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