A Tesla Model S, with Autopilot mode enabled, crashed into a truck last Friday in Utah, and the latest details from the crash could cause another blemish to Tesla’s reputation.
The crash involved a 28-year-old driver who hit the back of a fire truck in Salt Lake City, reported the Associated Press on Monday. The driver said she had engaged the Tesla Autopilot feature and was looking at her phone when the electric luxury sedan smashed into the truck going 60 miles per hour. Police have yet to release the name of the driver, but did confirm that she went to the hospital with a broken foot while the driver in the fire truck experience some whiplash and did not go to the hospital.
The crash saw Tesla CEO Elon Musk respond somewhat incredulously to the way the Autopilot wreck was being reported.
Musk commented on Twitter about the news, saying how it was “amazing” the driver crashed at 60 miles per hour and only had a broken ankle while car accidents at that speed usually result in death.
“It’s super messed up that a Tesla crash resulting in a broken ankle is front page news and the ~40,000 people who died in US auto accidents alone in past year get almost no coverage,” Musk also commented on Twitter to his 21.8 million followers.
Musk often touts the remarkable safety of Tesla on social media.
Originally released to Tesla vehicles in October 2015, Autopilot is the carmaker’s driver-assistance system that makes use of the car’s technology to drive and park on its own, however, Tesla advised drivers that it is not an autonomous driving system. The company suggests people behind the wheel of a Tesla should keep their hands on the wheel and be aware of their surroundings.
There have been four fatal crashes when the Autopilot was engaged, three in the US and one in China. In May 2016, a driver’s Tesla crashed into an 18-wheeler in Florida. The death led to an investigation by the National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration (NHTSA), which concluded that Tesla vehicles with Autopilot engaged crashed 40 percent less than vehicles without it.
In 2018, there have been two fatal car crashes involving Tesla vehicles and its Autopilot systems, one in January and another in March. The March accident is under investigation by the NHTSA and the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB).
The NTSB told the AP that it has not started an investigation on this crash. An investigation by the local police is still ongoing.
During Tesla earnings call on May 2, Musk said Teslas can be fully autonomous soon and all they would need is a simple plugin for the car’s computer. He explained that the biggest hurdle for self-driving Teslas would be regulators who react to pressure from the public.
In the same call, Musk said Tesla Autopilot accidents were due to “experienced users” who became complacent with their car.