The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration asked why Tesla did not initiate a recall after safety-related software updates

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Officials said in a tweet that on March 17, 2021, a Tesla running in the driving assistance system Autopilot crashed into a police car in Michigan.

Michigan State Police

The Federal Vehicle Safety Agency asked Tesla to explain why it did not initiate a recall when it pushed safety-related software updates to customers in September.

According to a letter to Tesla published by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration on the government agency’s website on Wednesday, the update enables Tesla vehicles to better detect emergency vehicle lights in low-light conditions.

A few weeks after NHTSA began investigating possible safety flaws in Tesla’s Autopilot, Tesla’s “emergency light detection update” was delivered to customers’ cars via wireless software updates, the company’s standard driver assistance package.

Tesla also sells an advanced version of its driver assistance system under the FSD or fully autonomous brand name, with a prepayment of US$10,000 or US$199 per month. None of Tesla’s systems can ensure that their cars are always used safely without a human driver. They are “level 2” driver assistance systems, not fully autonomous vehicle technology.

As previously reported by CNBC, NHTSA has discovered about 12 collisions involving Tesla drivers hitting the first responders’ vehicles when the first responders were parked on the side of the road, usually in the evening or before dawn in the morning. In each accident identified by NHTSA, Tesla drivers enabled autopilot or traffic-aware cruise control before the accident. One of the crashes resulted in deaths.

NHTSA wants to know whether Autopilot’s defects or design issues have caused or caused these accidents. Now they also want to know whether Tesla’s software update has effectively played a role in the invisible recall.

If the agency believes that Autopilot is defective, it may force a recall and affect Tesla’s public image. This finding may also inspire the urgency of rating and monitoring driver assistance systems such as Tesla.

Currently, NHTSA issues an annual New Car Assessment Program (NCAP) rating on the crashworthiness of vehicles sold in the United States. The NCAP rating lists the features included in each car, but the agency has not yet rated the safety of driver assistance systems such as Tesla or restrict their use.

As part of Tesla’s investigation, NHTSA is evaluating similar systems from 12 other automakers.

Gregory Magno, head of NHTSA’s vehicle defect department, told Tesla’s on-site quality director Eddie Gates in a new letter that automakers must notify NHTSA within five working days when they are aware of (or should have been aware of) a safety issue They need to repair the vehicle.

Magno emphasized that the current federal recall law covers wireless software updates.

The agency also asked Tesla to provide detailed information about its expanding FSD Beta program.

The program provides Tesla owners who have not received safety driver training the opportunity to test pre-release software and new driver assistance features on public roads in the United States. The FSD Beta software will not make Tesla cars driverless, nor has it been debugged enough for general use and widespread release.

Among other things, NHTSA requires a detailed record of how Tesla evaluated and selected participants for the experimental early access program.

Recently, Tesla added a “beta button” that allows any customer to request access to the FSD beta download. It also released an insurance calculator to provide a “safety score” for drivers seeking FSD Beta.

According to CEO Elon Musk’s comment on this figure at last week’s annual shareholder meeting, Tesla owners have earned 100 points for driving at least 100 miles in a week. FSD Beta can be used this week. The plan was expanded by approximately 1,000 people.

Vehicle safety advocates, including the National Transportation Safety Board, called on NHTSA to supervise Tesla’s Autopilot, FSD and FSD Beta systems as soon as possible.

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