Tesla driver in Utah 'Autopilot' crash had hands off wheel: Tesla

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The U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) said on Wednesday that it was sending a team to investigate the crash of a Tesla Inc vehicle last week in Utah that occurred while the auto was in Autopilot mode.

Data recovered from a Tesla that was driven at 60 miles per hour 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.

"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". The truck had been stopped at a red light.

The driver engaged Autosteer and Traffic Aware Cruise Control on multiple occasions during this drive cycle. The driver, who sustained a broken right ankle, told police that her auto was in autopilot mode and failed to brake before the violent impact decimated its front end. 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. "She did not touch the steering wheel for the next 80 seconds until the crash happened".

Tesla said 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. It is also probing the January crash of a Tesla vehicle apparently traveling in Autopilot that struck a fire truck. The driver finally touched the brake pedal "a second prior to the crash".

Contrary to the proper use of Autopilot, the driver did not pay attention to the road at all times, did not keep her hands on the steering wheel, and she used it on a street with no center median and with stoplight controlled intersections.

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Tesla confirms Utah driver engaged autopilot functions before slamming into firetruck

The US National Transportation Safety Board is investigating the accident, which led to the death of a 38-year-old father of two, Walter Huang.

This photo provided by Tesla shows a 2017 Tesla Model 3, a vehicle that has a semiautonomous driving system called Autopilot.

Last week, NHTSA also said it would probe a May 8 Tesla accident in Florida that killed two teenagers and injured another. The agencies are looking into the fire that resulted from the electric car's batteries igniting.

Swiss prosecutors said this week that they were looking into the fatal crash of a Tesla in southern Switzerland.

Follow USA TODAY tech writer Marco della Cava on Twitter.

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