The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has launched an investigation into a South Jordan crash involving a Tesla Model S that was reportedly in autopilot mode when the accident occurred, according to the agency.
The crash occurred last week when the Tesla, traveling about 60 miles per hour, rear-ended a fire truck stopped at a red light. The driver, who sustained a broken right ankle, told police that her car was in autopilot mode and failed to brake before the violent impact decimated its front end.
The crash is the third accident in recent months that has occurred when a Tesla was in the semiautonomous driving mode. Local police told CNBC that NHTSA representatives had already arrived at the scene of the accident.
“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 agency said in statement Wednesday. “NHTSA will take appropriate action based on its review.”
Using cameras and radar that can peer 250 meters ahead of a car, Tesla’s driver-assist software is designed to track traffic conditions, keeping vehicles in their lane and changing speeds according to the speed of surrounding cars. For the feature to work, drivers are required to keep their hands on the wheel at all times.
“Every driver is responsible for remaining alert and active when using Autopilot, and must be prepared to take action at any time,” the company states on its website.
The 28-year-old driver injured in the Utah crash told police she was looking at her phone at the time of the impact. Police said there was no indication the woman was impaired at the time of the crash, according to the Associated Press.
Tesla Chief Executive Elon Musk has repeatedly criticized coverage of the crash, arguing that the media reports disproportionately highlight the dangers faced by Tesla owners. He later conceded that the system could be improved.
Tesla vehicles are the subject of at least two other federal investigations.
In March, a Tesla driver was killed when his Model X crashed on a California highway, unleashing a fire and nearly ripping the vehicle in half. The vehicle was in autopilot mode when it slammed into a median on Highway 101 in Mountain View, Calif.
Last week, the NTSB began investigating an accident involving a Model S that killed two teenagers in Florida after it crashed into a wall.
The agency said the fire, which may have been exacerbated by the vehicle’s battery, is the focus of the investigation, not the vehicle’s semiautonomous system.