A Tesla electric vehicle is seen at a Tesla electric vehicle charging station at Willow Festival shopping plaza parking lot in Northbrook, Ill., Saturday, Dec. 3, 2022. A Tesla driver who had set his car on Autopilot was “distracted” by his phone before reportedly hitting and killing a motorcyclist Friday on Highway 522, according to a new police report. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)

A Tesla electric vehicle is seen at a Tesla electric vehicle charging station at Willow Festival shopping plaza parking lot in Northbrook, Ill., Saturday, Dec. 3, 2022. A Tesla driver who had set his car on Autopilot was “distracted” by his phone before reportedly hitting and killing a motorcyclist Friday on Highway 522, according to a new police report. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)

Tesla driver on Autopilot caused fatal Highway 522 crash, police say

The driver was reportedly on his phone with his Tesla on Autopilot on Friday when he crashed into Jeffrey Nissen, killing him.

MALTBY — A Tesla driver who had set his car on Autopilot was “distracted” by his phone before reportedly hitting and killing a motorcyclist Friday on Highway 522, according to a new police report.

Around 3:45 p.m., a Snohomish man in a 2022 Tesla Model S was driving home behind a motorcyclist at Fales Road in Maltby, according to the report.

The man, 56, had activated Tesla’s Autopilot feature. He was using his phone when he heard a bang as his car lurched forward and crashed into the motorcycle in front of him, troopers wrote.

The motorcyclist, Jeffrey Nissen, was ejected. The Tesla was lodged on top of him, police said.

The Tesla driver exited his car and called police. Nissen died at the scene. He was 28.

Using sobriety and drug recognition tests, authorities determined the driver was not impaired by drugs or alcohol, according to the report. Troopers arrested the Tesla driver for investigation of vehicular homicide while driving distracted.

Troopers wrote the driver’s inattention while his car was on Autopilot, “putting the trust in the machine to drive for him,” gave them probable cause to arrest the man. He was booked into the Snohomish County Jail.

Tesla’s Autopilot feature has come under regulatory and legal scrutiny. Since 2019, at least 17 people have been killed in crashes involving Teslas in Autopilot mode, The Washington Post reported in June.

The crash came a day before Tesla slashed the price of its Full Self-Driving software from $12,000 to $8,000.

The technology does not mean the car is autonomous. Tesla’s Autopilot and Full Self-Driving Capability are “intended for use with a fully attentive driver, who has their hands hands on the wheel and is prepared to take over at any moment,” according to the company’s website.

The man posted $100,000 bail and was released from jail Sunday night.

Jonathan Tall: 425-339-3486; jonathan.tall@heraldnet.com; Twitter: @snocojon.

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