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NHTSA Investigating Whether Autopilot was on in Tesla Model X Crash

Tesla says Autopilot isn't to blame

An investigation in the July 1 crash of a Tesla Model X crossover has been launched by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to determine what, if any, role the vehicle’s semi-autonomous features played in the crash, Automotive News reports.

Albert Scaglione, the vehicle owner who was driving at the time, reportedly told a Pennsylvania State Police officer that the Model X’s Autopilot features were engaged before the crash.

After the crash, the automaker received an alert saying that the vehicle’s airbags had deployed, but the report didn’t indicate whether the Autopilot features were engaged at the time. “Based on the information we have now, we have no reason to believe that Autopilot had anything to do with this accident,” Tesla said in a statement. The automaker says it has made several attempts to contact the owner to no avail.

While traveling on the Pennsylvania Turnpike, the vehicle bounced off the right side guardrail causing it to swerve all the way to the concrete median on the other side, finally landing upside down on its roof.

Drivers must acknowledge that the Autopilot feature does not make the vehicle fully autonomous in order to turn on the system. Tesla said that drivers are still responsible for the vehicle and must keep their hands on the steering wheel at all times.

The NHTSA is also investigating a May 2016 crash of a Tesla Model S sedan where the Autopilot function was engaged. That vehicle crashed into the side of a semi-trailer that was making a left turn in front of it. The driver in that crash was killed. Neither the car nor the driver saw the trailer in that incident. Reports that a video was playing on a DVD player are being investigated by the Florida Highway Patrol.