Tesla Receives Special Order from NHTSA Regarding Autopilot Probe
Written by Joey Klender, Teslarati
Published Sept. 5, 2023
Tesla received a special order from the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA) regarding its Autopilot investigation launched in June 2022, which was upgraded from a preliminary evaluation initiated in August 2021.
On July 26, the NHTSA wrote a letter to Tesla’s senior director of legal expressing concerns about Autopilot and its ability to alert drivers of their attentiveness, or lack thereof, when using the driver assistance feature.
“Recently, NHTSA became aware that Tesla has introduced an Autopilot configuration that, when enabled, allows drivers using Autopilot to operate their vehicles for extended periods without Autopilot prompting the driver to apply torque to the steering wheel," the letter said. "NHTSA is concerned that this feature was introduced to consumer vehicles and, now that the existence of this feature is known to the public, more drivers may attempt to activate it. The resulting relaxation of controls designed to ensure that the driver remain engaged in the dynamic driving task could lead to greater driver inattention and failure of the driver to properly supervise Autopilot.”
Tesla was instructed to respond to the special order by Aug. 25 or face fines of up to $26,315 daily.
Bloomberg initially reported on the NHTSA’s special order. The NHTSA shared the documents with Teslarati.
Tesla was required to submit the following to the NHTSA:
1. Details and dates of software updates, when they were introduced to Tesla engineering and then to consumer vehicles.
2. Steps to activate the setting in the software update “that reduces or eliminates instances in which Autopilot prompts the driver to apply torque has been enabled.”
3. Detailed steps or conditions necessary to revert a vehicle whose software update was activated to its ordinary state.
4. Differences between the setting in the software update that “reduces or eliminates instances in which Autopilot prompts the driver to apply torque when enabled and when not enabled to Autopilot’s driver monitoring system, including the amount of time Autopilot is allowed to operate without prompting application of torque, and any warnings or chimes that are presented to the driver.”
5. Other changes in the vehicle’s user inference, Autopilot functionality or vehicle control authority.
6. Tesla’s basis or purpose in installing the subject software in road consumer vehicles “beyond the Tesla engineering vehicles, including but not limited to the justification for which consumer vehicles or vehicle owners were eligible for the subject software update.”
7. Any lessons learned/findings from driving vehicles with subject software update enabled.
8. Documents explaining subject software’s functionality.
9. Test plans or instructions given to Tesla engineering staff responsible for driving engineering vehicles with the software update.
10. Crash and incident reports from collisions or near-misses involving vehicles with software update enabled.
NHTSA Administrator Ann Carlson said the Autopilot investigation would “get to a resolution…relatively soon.”