A Tesla Inc. Model X P100D sports utility vehicle (SUV) sits on display at the company's new showroom in New York on Dec. 14, 2017.
Mark Kauzlarich—Bloomberg via Getty Images
By Kirsten Korosec
May 17, 2018

The National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration confirmed Wednesday that it has sent a team of special crash investigators to look into a Tesla Model S that plowed into a fire department vehicle in Utah while its semi-autonomous driving system Autopilot was engaged.

This is the latest investigation by federal regulators into recent accidents involving Tesla vehicles.

The 28-year-old female driver, who hit a fire truck from behind at about 60 miles per hour, was cited by police after admitting she was looking at her phone prior to the collision, according to South Jordan Police. The crash resulted in minor injuries to both drivers, the police said in a statement.

“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. NHTSA will take appropriate action based on its review,” NHTSA wrote in an emailed statement to Fortune.

NHTSA’s special crash team is different from the agency’s Office of Defect Investigation. The SCI team collects a range of data from basic information found in routine police and insurance crash reports to comprehensive data from special reports by professional crash investigation teams. The SCI collects relevant data on vehicle, occupants, injury mechanisms, roadway, and safety systems from 100 crashes designated for study annually, according to NHTSA.

The National Transportation Safety Board said it is not investigating the Utah crash.

“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,” a Tesla spokeswoman said in an emailed statement. Tesla has always been clear that Autopilot doesn’t make the car impervious to all accidents.”

Tesla technicians recovered data from the vehicle and found that the driver repeatedly cancelled and then re-engaged features of Autopilot. The vehicle registered more than a dozen instances of her hands being off the steering wheel in this drive cycle, according data retrieved by Tesla technicians. 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.

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