Tesla’s Autopilot is currently being scrutinized by the US traffic safety authority. The reason for this is the increasing number of accidents that can quite obviously be attributed to the smart driving assistant. The e-car company is now to release internal details on how it works. Otherwise, it faces a hefty fine in the millions.
Till Oct. 22 cooling-off period
The National Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has set Tesla a reasonable deadline to hand over the sensitive data. The globally successful e-car maker is to be given up to and including October 22 to reveal the workings surrounding the “magic” Autopilot. In addition to the functionality itself, the company is also expected to announce what safety precautions it has taken under the leadership of CEO Elon Musk to prevent malfunctions and accidents.
Has Tesla integrated sufficient safety mechanisms?
Of greatest interest to NHTSA is whether Tesla has integrated sufficient safety mechanisms into Autopilot and how the same work. For example, the agency questions how Tesla takes care to ensure that drivers actually keep their eyes on the road while Autopilot is engaged. The road safety authority also wants to clarify certain safety limits of Autopilot. All of this is being done under the suspicion that the e-car maker may be a bit too lax with necessary safety precautions.
For example, it is extremely questionable for the authority how the autopilot wants to ensure that it is only used on highways. It is simply not approved for use on other roads. There are no real safety mechanisms or restrictions when it is activated. Autopilot can be activated anywhere and at any time. On top of that, it is important for the authorities to know how many vehicles Tesla has now sold in the USA. Only in this way can a true proportionality be established between “Autopilot accidents” and problems compared to the totality of all vehicles.
If Tesla chooses not to release the requested information in a timely manner, it will be costly for the company. NHTSA, for example, has already threatened to demand a whopping fine of up to 115 million if Tesla fails to respond. That the NHTSA would react sooner or later should have been foreseeable for Tesla. After all, an official investigation into the conspicuous accumulation of car accidents involving a Tesla controlled by Autopilot began back in August.
Twelve accidents so far
The official safety concerns are no coincidence. Indeed, twelve accidents have been recorded so far in the U.S. in which one of the popular e-cars with Autopilot activated has collided with emergency vehicles. Given the prominent warning lights emitted by police and firefighters, this is truly astonishing. Unfortunately, these collisions did not just result in damage to the vehicles involved. A total of 17 people were injured. One affected person even succumbed to his injuries. So far, Tesla has shown itself to be very cooperative when it comes to solving the problem. For example, the company has ensured that the Model 3 and Model Y models activate their rearview mirror cameras. This is intended to ensure that inattentive drivers are better recognized.