Carmaker blames driver for taking hands off wheel – report.

The driver of a Tesla car that crashed into a firetruck in Utah last week had enabled its Autopilot feature, the company has confirmed.

The Model S collided with a stationary vehicle in its path on 11 May after the driver turned on both the ‘autosteer’ and ‘cruise control’ features 80 seconds prior to the accident, Tesla told police.

The driver, who suffered a broken ankle in the crash, had taken her hands off the wheel to check her phone, according to Tesla, and reported on by the Guardian, and has received a traffic citation for “failure to keep [a] proper lookout”, police said.

Tesla said there were more than a dozen instances where the driver had taken her hands off the wheel for more than a minute.

It added that the driver’s use of Autopilot was “contrary to proper use” because she “did not pay attention to the road at all”.

Tesla’s manual warns its drivers that the automatic emergency braking is not a substitute for maintaining a safe distance from  cars in front of them.

“Drivers are repeatedly advised Autopilot features do not make Tesla vehicles ‘autonomous’ and that the driver absolutely must remain vigilant with their eyes on the road, hands on the wheel and they must be prepared to take any and all action necessary to avoid hazards on the road,” the company wrote.

The confirmation came out the same day that the US National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) announced it was sending a team to investigate the crash.

Earlier this week, Tesla CEO Elon Musk took to Twitter to rebuff claims from the Wall Street Journal that his company considered adding eye tracking and steering-wheel sensors to its Autopilot system but opted not to over financial reasons.

“This is false. Eyetracking rejected for being ineffective, not for cost. WSJ fails to mention that Tesla is the safest car on the road, which would make article ridiculous. Approx 4X better than avg,” he tweeted.

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