‘Extensive’ Tesla Autopilot probe proceeding ‘really fast’

WASHINGTON — The acting director of the U.S. Highway Traffic Safety Administration told reporters on Monday that regulators are “working very quickly” on the Tesla Autopilot investigation, which began in August 2021.

“We are investing a lot of resources,” NHTSA Acting Director Ann Carlson said in comments to reporters on the sidelines of the event in Washington. She declined to commit to a specific time frame for when the investigation would be resolved. So we’re moving as quickly as possible, but we want to be careful and make sure we have all the information we need.”

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

In June, NHTSA upgraded an 830,000-Tesla defect study involving a driver assistance system Autopilot and a parked emergency vehicle collision to engineering analysis. That step was necessary before the agency requested a recall.

NHTSA is reviewing whether Tesla vehicles adequately ensure driver attention. Earlier, officials said there was evidence that in most crashes under investigation, drivers followed Tesla’s alert strategy to try to get the driver’s attention, calling into question its effectiveness.

Carlson confirmed that the agency was in talks with Tesla over a Dec. 31 tweet by CEO Elon Musk about the driver-monitoring feature.

In a Dec. 31 tweet, drivers who have driven more than 10,000 miles using Tesla’s “fully self-driving” software system instructed drivers to hold the wheel to ensure they were paying attention. It was suggested that we should be able to disable the “steering wheel nag” alert. Musk replied, “Sure, the update will be in January for him.”

Carlson said the agency “has a very extensive investigation underway… we are discussing this latest communication with Tesla.”

Tesla did not immediately comment.

In 2020, the National Transportation Safety Board criticized Tesla for its “ineffective oversight of driver engagement” after a fatal Autopilot crash in 2018, while NHTSA called for “inadequate oversight.” said to have provided.

Tesla sells the $15,000 FSD software as an add-on that allows the company’s vehicles to change lanes and park autonomously. This complements the standard ‘autopilot’ feature, allowing the car to steer, accelerate and brake within its lane without driver intervention. Both systems use the steering wheel monitoring function.

Last month, NHTSA announced it had launched two new special investigations into crashes involving Tesla vehicles suspected of using advanced driver assistance systems. Since 2016, the NHTSA has launched special crash investigations into more than 30 Teslas in which 19 deaths have been reported, alleging advanced driver assistance systems such as Autopilot were used. .

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