“Tesla’s Autopilot Feature Under Investigation by US Highway Safety Agency”
– The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) is investigating Tesla’s hands-free Autopilot feature, which allows drivers to drive without holding the steering wheel for extended periods.
– The NHTSA’s inquiry was prompted by incidents where Tesla vehicles collided with emergency vehicles, and they are concerned about a specific Autopilot setup that allows drivers to use the system for extended periods without applying force to the steering wheel.
According to a recent report from tech.hindustantimes.com, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) in the US is investigating Tesla’s hands-free Autopilot feature. This feature allows drivers to drive without having to hold the steering wheel for extended periods. The agency has requested data from Tesla regarding this feature, following incidents where Tesla vehicles collided with emergency vehicles. The NHTSA is particularly worried about a specific Autopilot setup that enables drivers to use the system for extended periods without needing to apply force to the steering wheel.
Tesla’s Autopilot feature has safety controls in place to ensure driver engagement. When a driver removes their hands from the steering wheel while using Autopilot or Full Self-Driving mode, the car’s touchscreen displays a blinking symbol. If the driver continues to not grip the wheel, the system emits beeping sounds. If no action is taken, the Autopilot functionality can be disabled. However, in June, The Verge reported that a software hacker had discovered a way to deactivate these safety features, referring to it as “Elon mode.”
The NHTSA’s letter expresses concerns that drivers might try to activate this potentially risky mode, given its reported existence. Tesla has not publicly acknowledged the presence of “Elon mode.” The agency states in its letter that allowing the controls to loosen, which are meant to ensure the driver’s engagement in the driving task, could result in increased driver distraction and failure to properly supervise Autopilot. Tesla’s user manual advises drivers using Autopilot to always keep their hands on the steering wheel.
Elon Musk previously mentioned that a forthcoming software update would allow some Tesla drivers to disable the reminder notifications, often referred to as the “nag,” but this update has not been implemented yet. On August 25, the NHTSA confirmed that Tesla had submitted a confidential response to their inquiry. In a separate incident, Elon Musk was seen live streaming himself driving a Tesla in Palo Alto, California while using a phone, which violates both Tesla’s rules and California state law. However, Palo Alto police clarified that Musk would not be fined for this violation since no officer had directly witnessed the act.