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Tesla in more hot water with US highway safety authority

By Monte Stewart


Tesla factory
Tesla factory – Photo: Tesla factory

The US National Highway Transportation Safety Administrator wants to know why Tesla updated its driver-assistance software systems remotely instead of issuing a vehicle recall.

The NHTSA told Tesla to explain its decision on Tuesday 12 October in a letter to the company. In September, Tesla updated its Autopilot feature to improve detection of emergency vehicles with flahing lights stopped in situations where light was dim.

The NHTSA is also seeking data on Tesla’s Full Self-Driving Software amidst concerns that customers may not be permitted to share information about it.  The probes spell more hot water for Tesla after both the Autopilot and Full Self-Driving features came under scrutiny from the NHTSA and US lawmakers.

Safety defects require recall notice

The NHTSA reminded Tesla that it is legally required to file a recall notice with the regulator if safety defects are found.

“This recall notice must be filed with NHTSA no more than five working days after the manufacturer knew or should have known of the safety defect or noncompliance,” wrote NHTSA vehicle defects division chief Gregory Magno.

The letter was sent to Tesla field quality director Eddie Gates.

In August, the NHTSA ordered Tesla to turn over data on its Autopilot system following a series of crashes where company’s EVs struck parked emergency vehicles. The regulator has identified 12 collisions as part of its probe.

Tesla asked to provide data

Tesla was ordered to provide comprehensive information on Autopilot hardware and software, all crashes involving Tesla 2014-2021 models equipped with the system, and all personnel including past and present officers, employees, agents, contractors, consultants, attorneys, law firms and others associated with developing and producing the technology.


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The NHTSA has confirmed the Tesla vehicles involved in the crashes were using both Autopilot and Traffic Aware cruise-control systems.

Senators Richard Blumenthal D-Connecticut and Ed Markey D-Massachusetts have also asked the Federal Trade Commission to investigate Tesla for “potentially deceptive and unfair practices” related to its marketing of the partial self-driving features in its electric vehicles.

FSD data order came in second letter

The NHTSA issued its order for Full Self-Driving system data on Tuesday in a letter. As part of the probe, the regulator is seeking details on any non-disclosure agreements that the company may have with customers.

The NHTSA said it recently became aware of deals that allegedly limit participants in an early beta release program from sharing information that portrays the feature negatively or speaking with “certain people” about it.

“Given that NHTSA relies on reports from consumers as an important source of information in evaluating potential safety defects, any agreement that may prevent or dissuade participants in the early access beta release program from reporting safety concerns to NHTSA is unacceptable,” said the regulator in the letter. “Moreover, even limitations on sharing certain information publicly adversely impacts NHTSA’s ability to obtain information relevant to safety.”

Although Tesla calls its self-driving software systems Autopilot and Full Self-Driving, the company’s EVs are not fully self-driven. American law requires a driver to control driver-assistance systems.

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