The driver of a Tesla Model S that slammed into the back of a firetruck in South Jordan, Utah, while traveling at 60 mph said the vehicle was operating in autopilot mode.
The 28-year-old driver, a woman from Lehi, Utah, told crash investigators that the Tesla Model S was operating in autopilot – a semi-autonomous mode with crash-avoidance technology – when it collided with the firetruck. Eyewitnesses said the car never slowed down or swerved before impact.
Incredibly, the woman escaped the high-speed crash with only a broken ankle, USA Today reports. Tesla CEO Elon Musk, whose company faces growing criticism after a series of crashes involving its autonomous and semi-autonomous vehicles, seized on the driver’s relatively minor injury to underscore the car’s crashworthiness.
What’s actually amazing about this accident is that a Model S hit a fire truck at 60mph and the driver only broke an ankle. An impact at that speed usually results in severe injury or death.
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) May 14, 2018
The South Jordan Police Department told the Associated Press that its investigation of the crash is ongoing and said it will be working getting technical assistance from the National Transportation Safety Bureau (NTSB). Investigators said they are looking at data from the Tesla car’s computer system.
Flaws in Tesla’s semi-autonomous driving technologies were first exposed in May 2016 when a semi-autonomous Model S crashed into a tractor-trailer in Florida, killing the driver. That vehicle was also operating on autopilot when it crashed.
On March 23, a California man was killed when his Tesla Model X crashed into a highway barrier at 70 mph in Mountain View while it was operating in autopilot mode.
Federal authorities are also investigating a deadly Model S crash in Florida that killed two teenagers last week. Although autopilot is not believed to be a factor in that crash, investigators are looking into the battery fire that consumed the vehicle with the two students trapped inside.
Tesla says its autopilot system requires the full and constant attention of the driver and is not meant to be used as a self-driving or autonomous vehicle. Critics, however, say that therein lies a deadly flaw: A car smart enough to navigate itself most of the time may make drivers too reliant on autopilot.
The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) investigated the 2016 Model S Florida crash and found fault with the Tesla autopilot’s “operational design.” The agency found the vehicle’s autopilot system relies on driver input in certain situations, yet it cannot prevent drivers from fully relying on the vehicle to self-drive in all circumstances.