The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) wants to know why Tesla didn’t issue the autopilot summons after it became apparent that the driver assistance system had trouble seeing parked emergency vehicles.
NHTSA is also asking the company for more information about the growing public beta testing of the incomplete fully autonomous driving program. The recently launched security assessment process for entering the program, and non-disclosure agreements.
NHTSA revealed in March that it had 23 active investigations into possible crashes involving the autopilot.
Concern about the autopilot’s inability to see emergency vehicles goes back years. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration opened a formal investigation into the problem in August. It said it had recorded at least 11 accidents since 2018 in which drivers collided with parked emergency vehicles – including 17 injuries and one death.
Tesla shipped a software update to its cars to fix the problem with its driver assistance system in September. But the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration wants to know why the company hasn’t gone through the formal recall process with this update.
And the agency wrote in one of the messages: As Tesla is aware. The Vehicle Safety Act imposes an obligation on vehicle and auto equipment manufacturers to initiate a recall through an NHTSA notification. This is when vehicles or equipment produced by it have been identified that have vehicle safety defects or do not comply with applicable motor vehicle safety standards.
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The NHTSA Defects Office is asking the company for an internal timeline for a decision to publish the software update for September. Any internal investigations or studies conducted by the company in this regard, and specific dates when the software reached customers’ cars.
The department also wants the company to provide a list of any field incidents or other events that prompted the launch of the program to see if there are related failures of which it is not aware. The agency also wants Tesla to provide any technical or legal basis for not filing a subpoena.
It is one of the first times that the state safety agency has directly questioned Tesla about what the company’s critics say is a pattern of recall evasion.
The company has made a number of mechanical repairs to the cars over the years, which are classified as internal repairs. This is rather than being done under warranty, which some argue is an attempt to evade the issuance of refunds.
The company earlier this year issued a recall due to the failure of touch screens across more than 100,000 of its cars. And that’s after a lot of public pressure from the NHTSA.