Author: Tom Krishcher | Associated Press
Detroit-The US government’s highway safety agency wants detailed information on how Tesla’s autonomous driving system detects and responds to emergency vehicles parked on the highway.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration set out detailed requirements in an 11-page letter sent to the electric car manufacturer on Tuesday.
This letter is part of an extensive investigation into the behavior of some of the company’s automated driving systems when emergency personnel’s vehicles are parked while staff are dealing with collisions or other hazards.
The agency wanted to know how Tesla detected the scene of the collision, including flashing lights, road flares, reflective vests worn by rescuers, and vehicles parked on the road.
NHTSA also wants to know how the system responds to low-light conditions, what actions it will take if there is an emergency vehicle, and how it will warn drivers.
The agency also added the 12th accident to its investigation, in which a Tesla Autopilot crashed into a cruiser parked on the Florida Highway Patrol on an interstate highway near downtown Orlando on Saturday. In all accidents, at least 17 people were injured and 1 person died.
Since 2018, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has announced an investigation into Tesla’s driver assistance system after a series of collisions with emergency vehicles. The survey covers 765,000 vehicles for the 2014-2021 model year.
Autopilot is often misused by Tesla drivers. They are caught driving under the influence and even sitting in the back seat while driving on California highways.
The agency also asked Tesla to provide detailed information on how to ensure driver attention, including instrument panels and audible warnings. NHTSA also hopes to receive all consumer complaints, litigation and arbitration cases involving Autopilot, and wants to know where the system can operate and how it can ensure the driver’s attention.
The agency also wants to learn about Tesla’s policies and procedures for testing Autopilot and updates before releasing it to car owners. The request includes “the range of on-site tests or vehicle verification mileage required before the release of such systems or functions.”
Tesla “beta” tests its system, using data collected by customers while driving in traffic.
This investigation is another sign that NHTSA under the leadership of President Joe Biden has taken a tougher stance on the safety of autonomous vehicles than previous governments. Previously, the agency was reluctant to supervise new technologies because it was worried that it would hinder the adoption of systems that might save lives.
The National Transportation Safety Board also investigated some Tesla accidents that have occurred since 2016, and recommended that NHTSA and Tesla limit the use of Autopilot to areas where it can be operated safely. The NTSB also recommended that NHTSA require Tesla to have a better system to ensure the driver’s attention. NHTSA has not yet taken action on any recommendations. The NTSB has no enforcement powers and can only make recommendations to other federal agencies.
Tesla must respond or seek an extension before October 22. The agency said that if Tesla does not comply with the regulations, it can fine Tesla more than 114 million U.S. dollars.
Earlier Wednesday, Tesla had disbanded its media relations office, seeking comment.