On August 30th, in Detroit.
Tesla is letting some drivers use its Autopilot system for longer periods without making them hold the steering wheel. This has caused worry for safety regulators in the US.
The government has told Tesla to report how many cars got a software update that allows them to do something. They also want to know what Tesla’s plans are for making that update available to more people.
John Donaldson, who is in charge at NHTSA, wrote a letter to Tesla saying that they are worried about a certain feature in their cars. They are concerned that because people now know about this feature, more drivers may try to use it.
“The relaxing of controls that are meant to keep the driver focused on driving could make the driver more distracted and less likely to properly supervise Autopilot. ”
Someone wanted to talk to Tesla on Wednesday but they didn’t say what they wanted to talk about. The government is looking into Autopilot because it has been causing crashes with emergency vehicles on freeways, as well as hitting motorcycles and trucks.
They started an official investigation in 2021 and have sent investigators to 35 Tesla car accidents that could be linked to semi-automatic driving systems since 2016. At least 17 people have lost their lives.
Tesla says that their Autopilot system and their more advanced “Full Self-Driving” system cannot fully operate on their own and that drivers must always be prepared to take control.
The special request asks Tesla to explain changes in the software update that make it so that Autopilot doesn’t constantly ask drivers to hold the steering wheel.
This includes how long Autopilot can work without needing the driver’s input and any signals or sounds that are given to the driver.
The letter sent to Dinna Eskin, Tesla’s Senior Legal Director, asks the company to explain why they installed a software update in Austin, Texas, and justify why certain customers received it.
It also asks for information about car accidents and close calls involving vehicles that have the software update.
Donaldson wrote in the letter that you should include any plans to make the subject software work in consumer vehicles within the next year.
A Tesla official needs to answer a letter by August 25 or the agency will ask the Justice Department for help, and they could give a fine of over $131 million.