Driver was using Tesla’s autopilot at time of South Jordan crash

May 14, 2018, 10:22 PM | Updated: May 15, 2018, 10:10 pm

SOUTH JORDAN, Utah – The driver of a Tesla that crashed into the back of a fire truck in Utah told investigators she had the electric car’s autopilot engaged at the time of the crash, according to South Jordan police.

The wreck, which happened Friday just before 6:40 p.m., resulted in the driver of the Tesla being treated at the hospital for a broken foot. Police said the driver of the Unified Fire Authority mechanic truck was treated for injuries related to whiplash but was not taken to the hospital.

The Tesla Model S crashed into the back of a Unified Fire Authority mechanic truck. (Photo courtesy South Jordan Police Department)

The 28-year-old woman from Lehi said she had the autopilot feature turned on in her Model S as she was driving south on Bangerter Highway, police said. It was at the intersection of 10400 South that her car slammed into the truck that was stopped at a red light.

She was traveling at the posted speed limit of 60 miles per hour, according to investigators.

“While Tesla’s Autopilot feature indicates that a driver must be attentive at all times, the driver admitted that she was looking at her phone prior to the collision,” officials with the South Jordan Police Department said in a media release. “Based upon witness information, the driver of the Tesla did not brake or take any action to avoid the collision.”

Police also said the driver was trying to navigate to an address when the accident happened.

“She was heading to an address that she’d put into the GPS in that vehicle,” said Sgt. Sam Winkler. “Then she was comparing that address also to her phone to see which was a shorter route so she was looking at her phone and looked up just as the accident was about to happen.”

In response, Tesla said in a statement that it, “has not yet received any data from the car and thus does not know the facts of what occurred, including whether Autopilot was engaged.”

Officials said that representatives from the car company traveled to Utah on Monday to retrieve data from the vehicle. It will take a few days for a full analysis from Tesla and for confirmation about whether the semi-autonomous autopilot mode was active at the time of the collision.

The National Transportation Safety Board told KSL that it is aware of the wreck but is not currently involved in the investigation.

“As a reminder for drivers of semi-autonomous vehicles, it is the driver’s responsibility to stay alert, drive safely, and be in control of the vehicle at all times,” the statement from South Jordan Police said. “Tesla makes it clear that drivers should always watch the road in front of them and be prepared to take corrective actions. Failure to do so can result in serious injury or death.”

Sgt. Winkler urged drivers to better understand the technology.

“We would just like them to be cautious and double check their owner manuals to see exactly what these features can and can’t do and if they should be used on certain roads and not on others,” he said.

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Driver was using Tesla’s autopilot at time of South Jordan crash