A few days after last Friday’s collision between an Autopilot-enabled Tesla Model S and a stopped fire department truck, police in South Jordan, Utah blew away the clouds of speculation by stating the Tesla driver was looking at her phone immediately prior to the collision. Witnesses claim the car, piloted by an on-board suite of semi-autonomous driving aids, didn’t brake as it approached the traffic signal (and the stopped truck).
Now we know the entirety of what occurred in the car in the minutes preceding the 60 mph impact.
In its Thursday release, the South Jordan Police Department reiterates what we already knew about the crash: that the 28-year-old driver admitted to engaging Autopilot (a combination of lane-keeping Autosteer and Traffic-Aware Cruise Control), and that she looked at her phone before the crash.
However, after reviewing the vehicle’s data logs, police were able to fill in the blanks. Here’s what they discovered:
The driver engaged Autosteer and Traffic Aware Cruise Control on multiple occasions during this drive cycle. She repeatedly cancelled and then re-engaged these features, and regularly adjusted the vehicle’s cruising speed.
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.
The vehicle registered more than a dozen instances of her hands being off the steering wheel in this drive cycle.
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. Each time she put her hands back on the wheel, she took them back off the wheel after a few seconds.
About 1 minute and 22 seconds before the crash, she re-enabled Autosteer and Cruise Control, and then, within two seconds, took her hands off the steering wheel again. She did not touch the steering wheel for the next 80 seconds until the crash happened; this is consistent with her admission that she was looking at her phone at the time.
The vehicle was traveling at about 60 mph when the crash happened. This is the speed the driver selected.
The driver manually pressed the vehicle brake pedal fractions of 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.
Based on the findings, police issued a ticket to the Tesla driver (who’s currently nursing a broken foot) for “failure to keep proper lookout.” The detachment also mentions the investigation launched by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, in which investigators will examine why the vehicle did not take evasive action to prevent the crash.