Business and Technology

Tesla under recall scrutiny over autopilot issues

The top federal auto safety regulator sent two letters to Tesla this week raising questions about the company’s driver-assistance software systems and instructing the carmaker to provide fuller information. The regulator, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, is looking into why Tesla did not issue a recall last month when it updated software called Autopilot to improve its ability to spot stopped emergency vehicles such as police cars and fire trucks.

The agency also ordered Tesla to provide data about the software that the company calls Full Self-Driving and expressed concern that Tesla may be preventing customers from sharing safety information with the agency.

The moves suggest that NHTSA is taking a closer look at Tesla’s driver-assistance features and the gap between their names and their abilities. The safety board investigates the causes of automobile, train, airplane and other transportation accidents but has no regulatory power over manufacturers, as NHTSA does.

Concern about Autopilot — a system of cameras and other sensors that can steer, brake and accelerate with little input from a driver — has been growing because the technology sometimes fails to detect objects or other vehicles. Despite its name, Autopilot does not enable autonomous driving, and Ms. Homendy’s agency has said the technology lacks safeguards to ensure that drivers remain alert and in control.

Full Self-Driving is a more advanced system that Tesla has allowed a small set of owners to test on public roads. But it, too, is not able to pilot a car without active engagement by a human driver.

In August, NHTSA opened a formal investigation into 12 crashes in which Tesla cars operating in Autopilot mode failed to detect stopped emergency vehicles that had their lights flashing in low light. One accident killed a passenger. Other Autopilot crashes have accounted for 10 deaths since 2016, according to data compiled by NHTSA.

Source: Reuters

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