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Tesla says Model X involved in fatal crash was in "Autopilot" mode

Last Updated Mar 31, 2018 1:07 PM EDT

Tesla says a vehicle involved in a deadly crash last week was operating on its "Autopilot" system, making it the latest accident to involve self-driving technology. In a blog post on the company's website Friday, Tesla said Autopilot was engaged in the moments before the collision, "with the adaptive cruise control follow-distance set to minimum."

"The driver had received several visual and one audible hands-on warning earlier in the drive and the driver's hands were not detected on the wheel for six seconds prior to the collision," the post said. "The driver had about five seconds and 150 meters of unobstructed view of the concrete divider with the crushed crash attenuator, but the vehicle logs show that no action was taken."

Tesla has been under scrutiny following the fatal crash of its Model X last week in California. The National Transportation Safety Board said Tuesday it was opening an investigation into the incident.  

Tesla Crash Investigation

In this Friday March 23, 2018 photo provided by KTVU, emergency personnel work a the scene where a Tesla electric SUV crashed into a barrier on U.S. Highway 101 in Mountain View, Calif.

KTVU via AP

The victim was identified as 38-year-old Walter Huang from Foster City, CBS San Francisco reports. He leaves behind a wife and two children.

The vehicle was traveling at "freeway speed" on U.S. 101 near Mountain View when it hit a barrier on March 23. The California Highway Patrol said the SUV caught fire. The 38-year-old driver was pulled from the vehicle by rescuers and later died at a hospital. 

Tesla's semi-autonomous system is designed to keep a vehicle centered in its lane at a set distance from cars in front of it and also can change lanes and brake automatically.

Photographs taken of the SUV show the front of the vehicle was obliterated. Its hood was ripped off and its front wheels were strewn on the freeway. Two other cars were involved in the crash, but their drivers were not reported injured, the CHP said.

Tesla said it in a statement earlier this week it was "deeply saddened" by the crash. Tesla also said its owners have driven the same stretch of road with Autopilot on about 85,000 times since 2015, and to its knowledge, there has never been a crash. 

"The reason this crash was so severe is because the crash attenuator, a highway safety barrier which is designed to reduce the impact into a concrete lane divider, had been crushed in a prior accident without being replaced," Tesla said Friday in its post continued. "We have never seen this level of damage to a Model X in any other crash."  

Congress and federal agencies are grappling with how to regulate autonomous vehicles and those with systems that are partially self-driving.

Earlier this month, a self-driving Volvo SUV being tested by ride-hailing service Uber struck and killed a pedestrian in Arizona.