Police: Tesla in Autopilot mode sped up before crashing into firetruck

A traffic collision involving a Tesla Model S sedan with a fire department mechanic truck stopped at a red light in South Jordan, Utah, May 11, 2018 | File photo courtesy of South Jordan Police Department via Associated Press, St. George News

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — A Tesla that crashed while in Autopilot mode in Utah this month accelerated in the seconds before it smashed into a stopped firetruck, according to a police report obtained by The Associated Press. Two people were injured.

The scene of a traffic collision involving a Tesla Model S sedan with a Fire Department mechanic truck that had stopped at a red light in South Jordan, Utah, May 11, 2018 | Photo courtesy of the South Jordan Police Department via AP, St. George News

Data from the Model S electric vehicle show it picked up speed for 3.5 seconds before crashing into the firetruck in suburban Salt Lake City, the report said. The driver manually hit the brakes a fraction of a second before impact.

Police suggested that the car was following another vehicle and dropped its speed to 55 mph (89 kph) to match the leading vehicle. They say the leading vehicle then likely changed lanes and the Tesla automatically sped up to its preset speed of 60 mph (97 kph) without noticing the stopped cars ahead.

The police report, which was obtained Thursday through an open records request, provides detail about the vehicle’s actions immediately before the May 11 crash and the driver’s familiarity with its system.

The driver of the vehicle, Heather Lommatzsch, 29, told police she thought the vehicle’s automatic emergency braking system would detect traffic and stop before the car hit another vehicle.

She said she owned the car for two years and used the semi-autonomous Autopilot feature on all kinds of roadways, including the Utah highway where she crashed, according to the report.

Lommatzsch said the car did not provide any audio or visual warnings before the crash. A witness told police she did not see the car illuminate its brake lights or swerve to avoid the truck ahead of it.

Lommatzsch did not return a voicemail message Thursday.

Tesla referred to a prior comment that drivers are continually reminded to keep their hands on the wheel and maintain control of their vehicle at all times while using the Autopilot system.

“Tesla has always been clear that Autopilot doesn’t make the car impervious to all accidents,” Tesla said.

Police said car data show Lommatzsch did not touch the steering wheel for 80 seconds before the crash. She told police she was looking at her phone and comparing different routes to her destination.

She broke her foot in the crash and this week was charged with a misdemeanor traffic citation. Online court records do not show an attorney listed for her.

The scene of a traffic collision involving a Tesla Model S sedan with a Fire Department mechanic truck that had stopped at a red light in South Jordan, Utah, May 11, 2018 | Photo courtesy of the South Jordan Police Department via AP, St. George News

The driver of the firetruck told police he had injuries consistent with whiplash but did not go to the hospital.

Tesla’s Autopilot system uses cameras, ultrasonic sensors and radar to sense the vehicle’s surrounding environment and perform basic functions automatically.

Among those functions is automatic emergency braking, which the company says on its website is designed “to detect objects that the car may impact and applies the brakes accordingly.” Tesla says the system is not designed to avoid a collision and warns drivers not to rely on it entirely.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has said it is investigating the May 11 crash.

Tesla’s Autopilot has been the subject of previous scrutiny following other crashes involving the vehicles.

In March, a driver was killed when a Model X with Autopilot engaged hit a barrier while traveling at “freeway speed” in California. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and the National Transportation Safety Board are investigating that case.

This week, Tesla said Autopilot was not engaged when a Model S veered off a road and plunged into a pond outside San Francisco, killing the driver.

Earlier in May, the National Transportation Safety Board opened a probe into an accident in which a Model S caught fire after crashing into a wall at a high speed in Florida. Two 18-year-olds were trapped and died in the blaze. The agency has said it does not expect Autopilot to be a focus in that investigation.

Written by JULIAN HATTEM, Associated Press.

Email: news@stgnews.com

Twitter: @STGnews

Copyright 2018 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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10 Comments

  • NotSoFast May 26, 2018 at 8:39 pm

    “If you like your current car or insurance plan, you can keep them”.

  • NotSoFast May 26, 2018 at 8:59 pm

    In this case of (inattention by the vehicle), maybe there was a computer to computer secondary discussion going on also when the driver was checking Google on her smart phone for a alternate route of travel. Car system says: Google’s recommended route 2 is dead wrong. Stay your course as planned. ‘look at the data’ BAMB!

  • comments May 26, 2018 at 9:51 pm

    autopilot huh? more like autoidiot. The cars almost as big an idiot as the owner in this case. But a computer just does what it’s programmed to do. What’s the idiot owner’s excuse?

    • ladybugavenger May 27, 2018 at 8:11 am

      The idiot trusted a computer to do what its programmed to do and didn’t learn from the last Tesla crash.

      Implementing the idea of self driving vehicles is an accident waiting to happen. Computers fail and glitch all day long.

  • dogmatic May 27, 2018 at 1:48 pm

    Tesla manual and dashboard safety sticker and flashing lights continually reminds drivers to keep their hands on the wheel and maintain control of their vehicle at all times while using the Autopilot system.
    And remember that there are sensers in the steering wheel so we will know if you don’t follow the rules.

    • dogmatic May 27, 2018 at 2:19 pm

      Reading the police report on how the Tesla lost control is very funny if you think about it. I thought it was going to end with the car getting the citation.

      • NotSoFast May 27, 2018 at 11:55 pm

        *If the self driving jalopy runs a red light, *the driver is passed out from drinking 4 martini’s, * but has her hands and head on the steering wheel,
        who does the St. George investigating officer give a citation to? *And does the owner need a operating drivers license if she is just a backseat driver?

  • utahdiablo May 27, 2018 at 8:51 pm

    Yeah, funny until it hits me or mine….will sue Tesla out of business no matter how deep his pockets are

  • Mike P May 28, 2018 at 12:28 pm

    And to think the poor woman had to actually manually hit the brakes all by herself !! Oh my god ! what’s the world coming to !

  • NoNonsense May 28, 2018 at 3:09 pm

    Keep in mind, there are thousands of car crashes a day, killing more that 3000 people per day. Driving is the 9th leading cause of death in the world. The fact there are so few of these Tesla crashes should be the real news. Don’t get so worked up about those big scary computers.

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