NHTSA also asks why Tesla didn’t recall Autopilot for its tendency to crash into parked emergency vehicles
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration wants to know why Tesla did not issue a recall for Autopilot after it became clear the driver assistance system had a problem “seeing” parked emergency vehicles. NHTSA is also asking Tesla for more information about its ongoing public beta testing of its incompletely completed self-driving software, the recently launched “Safety Score” evaluation process for entering the program, and the non-disclosure agreement Tesla has entered into. Until this week the participants had been signing up.
Safety regulator’s concerns were outlined two Letter Published Wednesday — the latest in a series of recent moves by NHTSA that show it’s paying far more serious attention to Tesla than it has been during the Trump administration. In March, it revealed that it had 23 active investigations into accidents. may include autopilot.
Concern extends back with Autopilot’s inability to “see” emergency vehicles years. NHTSA launched a formal investigation into the problem in August and said it had recorded at least 11 incidents since 2018 where drivers crashed into parked emergency vehicles – including 17 injuries and one death.
Tesla sent a software update for cars meant to fix the problem With its driver assistance system in September. But NHTSA wants to know why Tesla didn’t go through a formal recall process with this update, potentially setting off a protracted battle over whether over-the-air updates that could materially change what cars The operation must be subject to the government’s stringent automotive protections. Rule.
“As Tesla knows, [Vehicle] The Safety Act imposes an obligation on manufacturers of motor vehicles and motor vehicle equipment to initiate a recall by notifying NHTSA when they determine that the vehicles or equipment produced by them have defects related to motor vehicle safety or applicable motor vehicle safety. do not comply with the standard. The agency writes in a letter.
NHTSA’s Office of Defects division is specifically asking Tesla for an internal timeline of its decision to deploy the September software update, any internal investigations or case studies conducted by the company, and specific dates when the software will be available to customer vehicles. went out. The division also wants Tesla to provide a list of any “field incidents or other incidents that prompted the release of the software,” possibly to see if there are related crashes that it is not aware of.
Ultimately, the agency wants Tesla to provide any “technical and/or legal basis” for not filing for the recall.
This is the first time a government security agency has directly questioned Tesla in what critics of the company say is a pattern of actively dodging. Notably, the company has made a number of mechanical improvements on cars over the years that were labeled as “goodwill” repairs rather than being done under warranty—something that Recalls are an attempt to avoid continuing the debate. Earlier this year, Tesla issued a recall only after public pressure from the NHTSA for failing touchscreen displays on more than 100,000 of its cars.
Tesla recently began expanding access to a beta version of its so-called full self-driving software, which doesn’t yet make the company’s cars even closer to fully autonomous. In late September, it shipped another software update that allowed owners to request to participate in beta testing. At the same time, Tesla said it will begin using a new “Safety Score” feature to evaluate owners’ driving habits and that only allows the best performers in full self-driving beta.
NHTSA wants to know more about all of this. In the same letter, it calls on Tesla to provide “criterion and timeline to allow access to customers requesting consideration for consideration in Tesla’s FSD beta request process” and asks the company to “follow all selection criteria and supporting documents.” detailed description of copies”. It also wants a list of people who have opted out of participating in the beta, along with the vehicle identification number of any car with the software, the date the software was installed on said car, and whether the owner is an employee of Tesla.
Tesla’s response to all those requests for information is due November 1st.
The second letter also focused on one aspect of the full self-driving beta, although it was sent by Ann Carlson, NHTSA’s lead counsel. She wants to learn more about the nondisclosure agreements Tesla was signing owners in exchange for access to beta software.
When parts of that NDA were first published vice president In late September, it was revealed that Tesla was asking owners to “consider sharing less videos” of poorly performing software for fear that those clips would be taken out of context. “[T]There are a lot of people here who wish Tesla had failed; Don’t let them misrepresent your reaction and media posts,” the document read. (Tesla CEO Elon Musk has said on several occasions that he believes “negative news” about his company’s driver assistance systems makes roads less safe. Because it discourages people from using the autopilot.)
Just a day after that story was published, Tesla CEO Elon Musk was asked about the NDA at the 2021 code conference. He said the owners were sharing “too many videos” despite the agreement because “people don’t listen to me.”
“I don’t know why the NDA is there,” he said, adding, “we probably don’t need it.” Looks like Tesla has dropped the NDA the most Latest version of full self-driving beta software.
In Carlson’s letter dated October 12, she writes that the agency is concerned that Tesla is hindering one of the agency’s best resources for keeping an eye on automakers: their customers.
“Given that NHTSA relies on consumer reports as an important source of information in evaluating potential security flaws, any agreement that may prevent participants in the Early Access Beta Release Program from reporting security concerns to NHTSA is, or could be, unacceptable,” she writes. “In addition, the limits on publicly sharing certain information also adversely affect NHTSA’s ability to obtain information relevant to security.”
While the NHTSA has turned up the heat on Tesla since Joe Biden took over, it has increased its investigation of driver assistance systems across the board. In June, the agency announced a new rule that requires automakers and transportation companies to immediately report accidents involving partially or fully autonomous systems. In September, it requested information from 12 other automakers about their driver assistance systems as part of an investigation into Tesla’s problem with emergency vehicles.