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article imageTesla sedan crashes into truck stopped at red light

By Karen Graham     May 13, 2018 in Technology
A Tesla sedan with a semi-autonomous Autopilot feature has rear-ended a fire department truck at 60 mph (97 kph) apparently without braking before impact, but police say it's unknown if the Autopilot feature was engaged.
It looks like the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) will be adding another Tesla crash to its list of three active investigations into the vehicle's Autopilot function. (A fourth investigation involves a high-speed crash where the lithium-ion battery caught fire).
In the latest crash that occurred Friday evening, a Tesla Model S sedan equipped with a semi-autonomous Autopilot system plowed into the back of a Unified Fire Authority mechanic truck at 60 mph that was stopped at a traffic light in South Jordan, outside of Salt Lake City, Utah.
The female driver suffered a broken ankle and there was extensive damage to the car. The driver of the truck didn't require treatment. According to the Huffington Post, police say the Tesla's driver did not appear to be under the influence of any substance that could have impaired her driving.
South Jordan police Sgt. Samuel Winkler said the vehicle's airbags were activated in the crash, but he said any information on what the driver told investigators about what happened or the cause of the crash likely wouldn't be available before Monday, according to USA Today.
In a statement, the police department said light rain falling and roads were wet when the crash occurred, and it is not known if the Tesla Autopilot system was engaged. "Witnesses indicated the Tesla Model S did not brake prior to impact," the statement said.
Tesla's Autopilot system
Tesla's Autopilot system uses cameras, radar, and computers to keep speed, change lanes and automatically stop vehicles. The company is known to have told drivers the system requires them to keep their eyes on the road and their hands on the wheel so they can take control to avoid accidents.
The NTSB and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration are investigating several crashes of Tesla sedans that has allegedly involved the Autopilot system. But perhaps even more concerning is the fires that have occurred in several of the crashes.
In March, a Tesla driver using the vehicle's Autopilot system crashed in Mountain View, California, and ignited. The driver was killed in the crash. ABC News learned from an investigative source that the battery of the vehicle caught fire again a week later after the car was towed to an impound lot.
The NTSB and the NHTSA are also examining a high-speed crash that occurred last Tuesday in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, involving a Tesla Model S. The crash resulted in an intense fire, killing two local high school seniors.
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Lithium-ion batteries being looked at very closely
Of course, lithium-ion batteries are not used exclusively by Tesla. "NTSB has a long history of investigating emerging transportation technologies, such as lithium-ion battery fires in commercial aviation, as well as a fire involving the lithium-ion battery in a Chevrolet Volt in collaboration with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration,” said NTSB Chairman Robert S. Sumwalt.
“In addition, the NTSB is currently investigating a fire involving the transportation of hydrogen gas for fuel cell vehicles. The goal of these investigations is to understand the impact of these emerging transportation technologies when they are part of a transportation accident.”
Tesla defends its batteries, saying they are safe. "Serious high-speed collisions can result in a fire, regardless of the type of car," a Tesla spokesperson said in a statement to ABC News. "Tesla’s billions of miles of actual driving data shows that a gas car in the United States is five times more likely to experience a fire than a Tesla vehicle."
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