‘Expanded’ Tesla Autopilot probe gets underway quickly, US official says


The acting director of the US National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) told reporters on Monday that the regulator is ‘working very quickly’ on the Tesla Autopilot investigation being opened. in August 2021.

“We’re investing a lot of resources,” NHTSA acting director Ann Carlson said in a comment to reporters on the sidelines of an event in Washington. She declined to commit to a specific time frame when the investigation will be resolved. “The resources require a lot of technical expertise, which is actually some legal novelty, and so we’re moving as quickly as we can, but we also want to be careful and make sure we have all the information I need.”

In June, NHTSA upgraded to an exploratory technical analysis of 830,000 Tesla vehicles with Autopilot driver assistance systems and involved in collisions with parked emergency vehicles. That step is necessary before the agency can request a recall.

NHTSA is looking into whether Tesla’s vehicles provide adequate guarantees for attentive drivers. Previously, the agency said evidence showed that drivers in most of the collisions under review complied with Tesla’s warning strategy to get drivers’ attention, raising questions about its effectiveness.

Carlson confirmed that the agency is in discussions with Tesla about a December 31 tweet that CEO Elon Musk wrote about driver monitoring.

Carlson, who has served as the agency’s general counsel since early 2021, became acting administrator of NHTSA in September.

A tweet on December 31 suggested that drivers who have traveled more than 10,000 miles using Tesla’s “Full Self-Driving” (FSD) software system could disable “steering wheel nagging,” a scene The alert instructs the driver to hold the steering wheel to confirm they are driving. attention. Musk replied: “Agreed, the update will be in January.”

Carlson said the agency has “a very extensive investigation going on… We are in discussions with Tesla about this latest communication.”

Tesla did not immediately comment.

In 2020, the National Transportation Safety Board criticized Tesla for “ineffective monitoring of driver involvement” following the fatal Autopilot crash in 2018 and said NHTSA provided “poor oversight.”

Tesla sells $15,000 worth of FSD software as an add-on that allows its vehicles to change lanes and park automatically. That complements its standard “Autopilot” feature, which allows cars to steer, accelerate and brake within their lanes without driver intervention. Both systems use steering wheel monitoring.

Last month, NHTSA said it had opened two new special investigations into crashes involving Tesla vehicles where advanced driver assistance systems were suspected of being used. Since 2016, NHTSA has opened more than three dozen Tesla-specific crash investigations in which advanced driver assistance systems such as Autopilot are suspected of being used in 19 fatal crashes. reported accident.

Reporting by David Shepardson; Editing by Leslie Adler and David Gregorio


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