UNITED STATES: The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s (NHTSA’s) acting head told journalists on Monday that the regulatory organisation is “working really fast” to wrap up the Tesla (TSLA.O) Autopilot probe it started in August 2021.
“We’re investing a lot of resources,” stated Ann Carlson, the acting head of the NHTSA, to journalists outside of a gathering in Washington. She refused to commit to a specific timeframe for when the investigation would be resolved.
“The resources require a lot of technical expertise, 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 we need,” she continued.
In June, the NHTSA upgraded its defect investigation into 830,000 Tesla vehicles equipped with the driver assistance feature Autopilot and involving possible crashes with parked emergency vehicles to an engineering analysis.
The action was necessary before the organisation could request a recall. The NHTSA is examining whether Tesla vehicles provide enough assurance that drivers are paying attention.
The agency previously said that the evidence shows the driver in most of the crashes under analysis had complied with Tesla’s alert method, which seeks to compel drivers’ attention, elevating concerns about its effectiveness.
Elon Musk, the Tesla CEO, alluded to a driver monitoring feature in a tweet he posted on December 31. Carlson said that the agency was speaking with Tesla about this.
Carlson, who had been the agency’s general counsel since early 2021, was appointed acting administrator of the NHTSA in September.
A tweet dated December 31 suggested that anyone who has driven more than 10,000 miles in a Tesla with the “Full Self-Driving” (FSD) software system should be able to turn off the “steering wheel nag,” a notification that asks people to hold the wheel to confirm they are paying attention.
Musk replied: “Agreed, an update is coming in January.”
A “very extensive inquiry” is already underway, Carlson said, and the agency is “conversing with Tesla about this latest communication.”
Tesla didn’t comment immediately. Following a fatal Autopilot crash in 2018, the NTSB criticised Tesla in 2020 for its “ineffective monitoring of driver engagement” and claimed the NHTSA had provided “scant oversight.”
The $15,000 FSD software, which allows Tesla vehicles to park and change lanes autonomously, is a company-sold add-on that expands on the company’s standard “Autopilot” functionality, which allows vehicles to steer, accelerate, and brake while maintaining lane compliance without human input. Both systems make use of the steering wheel monitoring feature.
Last month, the NHTSA said that it had opened two more special probes into crashes involving Tesla vehicles, where it is thought that advanced driver assistance technologies were in use.
Since 2016, the NHTSA has launched more than 30 special probes into Tesla crashes where the use of cutting-edge driver assistance technologies like Autopilot was suspected, and 19 crash fatalities have been recorded.
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