U.S. Congressman Eyes Tesla! Asking Regulators About Its Autopilot Accidents

Aug. 12 (Bloomberg) -- Two U.S. congressmen who oversee auto safety reportedly asked federal auto safety regulators to brief an investigation into Tesla's use of Autopilot and advanced driver assistance systems in a crash.

In a letter to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), Democratic U.S. Sen. Gary Peters (D-Mich.) and Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-Mich.) said they are concerned about "the federal investigation and recent reports that have uncovered troubling safety issues at Tesla ".

The lawmakers asked, "In light of the increasing number of deaths from Tesla cars crashing into tractor trailers ...... is NHTSA considering opening a deficiency investigation into this issue?"

The letter goes on to say, "Has NHTSA struck a balance between a thorough investigation and responding to urgent, emerging motor vehicle safety risks?" and whether the agency has sufficient resources and legal authority to properly investigate advanced driver assistance systems.

NHTSA was not immediately available for comment. In July, NHTSA Administrator Steve Cliff told the press that he hopes to complete the investigation into Tesla's advanced driver assistance system, Autopilot, as soon as possible, "but I also want to get things right. There's a lot of information for us to sort through."

Tesla, which has disbanded its press office, had no immediate comment. Tesla's website says Autopilot allows the vehicle to steer, accelerate and brake automatically, "but requires active driver oversight and does not allow the vehicle to drive itself."

Since 2016, NHTSA has launched 38 special investigations into accidents involving Tesla vehicles that allegedly used advanced driver assistance systems such as Autopilot. A total of 19 people have died in crashes in these Tesla-related investigations.

Last month, the NHTSA said it opened a special investigation into a crash involving a 2020 Tesla Model 3 vehicle in Utah that killed a motorcyclist.

In June, NHTSA escalated its defect investigation into 830,000 Tesla vehicles equipped with Autopilot systems involved in crashes into parked emergency vehicles, a necessary step for the company to issue a vehicle recall. The investigation was first launched in August 2021.

On June 15, NHTSA said Tesla has reported 273 crashes involving advanced driver assistance systems since July 2021, more than any other automaker.

The lawmakers asked whether NHTSA has determined whether Tesla has implemented safety measures to prevent advanced driver assistance systems "from being activated when the vehicle is not properly equipped to operate.

The National Transportation Safety Board and other agencies have questioned whether Tesla is doing enough to ensure that drivers are focused while using the Autopilot.

In their letter, the lawmakers wrote: "Did NHTSA's investigation find that allowing the advanced driver assistance system to operate in unsuitable conditions constituted a design defect?"



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