Police say Autopilot not believed in use in Detroit Tesla crash

FILE PHOTO: A Tesla logo hangs on a building outside of a Tesla dealership in New York, U.S., April 29, 2016. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Detroit police said Tuesday they do not believe Tesla's driver assistance system Autopilot was in use during a crash last week of a Tesla that became wedged underneath a tractor-trailer and left a passenger in critical condition.

On Monday, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) said it was aware of the "violent crash" in Detroit on March 11 and a Special Crash Investigation (SCI) team would investigate.

Detroit Police Assistant Chief David LeValley said Tuesday at a press briefing "that all indications" are that the Tesla was not in Autopilot mode at the time, citing statements made by the driver and video evidence showing some evasive maneuvers before the crash.

The passenger is still hospitalized while the driver, who was previously hospitalized, is being charged with reckless driving, LeValley said, adding that speed was a significant factor in the crash.

NHTSA has previously launched at least 14 special crash investigation teams following Tesla crashes that were suspected of being tied to its Autopilot driver assistance system, but has taken no action against the automaker as a result of those probes.

NHTSA investigators will meet with Detroit police later this week to review data from the vehicle's data recorder, LeValley said.

Tesla did not respond to requests for comment.

Autopilot has been engaged in at least three Tesla vehicles involved in fatal U.S. crashes since 2016.

NHTSA and the National Transportation Safety Board have probed other crashes in which a Tesla struck a trailer, including two fatal crashes in Florida.

Tesla advises drivers they must keep their hands on the steering wheel and pay attention while using Autopilot. However, some Tesla drivers say they are able to avoid putting their hands on the wheel for extended periods when using Autopilot.

(Reporting by David Shepardson; editing by Richard Pullin)

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