May 17, 2018, 5:14 AM ET

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


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.

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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.

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

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  • Mary Yancey Kelbell

    Until all cars on the road "talk" that is send signals to each other, autonomous driving is not going to be totally safe. And in that circumstance, drivers will have to give up all control to their car computers.

  • Mary Yancey Kelbell

    Yeah sounds like they work best on highways with light traffic. Not heavy traffic, or anywhere other cars are making sudden stops or turns. Like cruise control.

  • MickC

    Foolish. If it had cost her life she'd be a candidate for the "Darwin Awards" given to the fool who most stupidly takes him or herself out of the gene pool!

  • molimelight

    There should be a special test for "common sense" before people are allowed to buy and drive self driving cars.

  • Omegacron

    LOL what's the point of buying a car with autopilot if you still have to keep your hands on the steering wheel? No thanks, I'll stick with the old-fashioned autopilot system... ME.

  • Blaize Rage

    How sensitive is the sensor? I know people that used their leg under the steering wheel to steer on straight stretches of the highway on cruise control.

  • JuPMod

    As I had mentioned in another article, I will always be in control of my vehicle, even if the car have features as Tesla's 'autopilot'. I really do not trust these features, given driving on the road is not the same as flying a plane. Some drivers, like the woman in this article, do not understand that this 'autopilot' does *not* make the car self-driving, like Google's cars are. I agree with others that this feature should be taken off, so drivers will be force to drive and not get any stupid misconceptions that the car can drive itself.

  • RobertJohns

    Tesla needs to disable its so-called "Autopilot" and provide the following message when any attempt is made to activate it: "Due to the behavior of fools, Autopilot is no longer available - drive the car yourself."

  • I Don't Know

    Sorry, but no matter if my car can do this or not, I'm NEVER, EVER gonna take my hands off of the wheel.

  • Ole Sckooler

    After learning about this mishap, this person avoided being on the Darwin Award for stupidity. Go ahead, believe in your own press while driving a Tesla which now is a 90k wreak. Unfortunately, these idiots will get others killed for this kind of shizzle!

  • Quantez Williams

    Oh, Elon! Musk you keep lying to the public?

  • j penske

    "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.
    I will say I agree with the disclaimer. But on the other hand, why even have autopilot ? That statement is basically saying the driver is doing the driving anyway. Personally, if I had a Tesla, I would never engage it.

  • Quantez Williams

    I think it's relevant to mention that in Tesla's promotional video (on their website), they have a time-lapse demonstration where a driver rides along with his hands on his thighs the entire time of the video. The car is doing all of the driving, including turning and braking. At the end of the video, the driver gets out of the vehicle and it parallel parks itself. The video is about 2 minutes long. Again, it's time-lapse, so the actual driving time is substantially greater. I think it would be unrealistic to expect the driver to keep her hands on the wheel the entire time.

  • CommonSense

    So the real question is why does Tesla allow drivers to remove their hands from the wheel for extended periods?????

    If both your hands come off the wheel the car should disengage Autopilot immediately! Tesla is complicit in these crashes by allowing drivers to divert their attention and drive without their hands on the wheel. No excuse! Do we as other drivers on the road need to wait until a Non Tesla driver is killed. We should be all over Tesla and the NTSB to shut down autopilot if this is how Tesla is going to deploy it.

  • MandalayBay328

    She already owned up to the fact she had the car on auto-pilot and was putzing around with her phone when the crash happened. Nice to see the car backed it up though.