NHTSA Squeezes Tesla For More Records In Autopilot Probe

Image credit: Tesla

US federal safety regulator demands updated records from Tesla, amid ongoing Autopilot safety investigation

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has told Tesla to provide updated records as it continues its safety probe of the EV maker.

Indeed, Tesla has been instructed to send extensive new records to the NHTSA – or else face steep fines, CNBC reported.

It was back in August 2021 when the NHTSA had launched a formal investigation of Tesla’s Autopilot, after a series of high profile fatal crashes.

Image credit: Tesla
Image credit: Tesla

Tesla probe

Then in June 2022, the NHTSA announced it was upgrading its preliminary investigation of the Autopilot driving assistance system, to an “engineering analysis”, which is the step taken before the agency determines a recall.

Fast forward a couple of months, and in October 2022 reports emerged that the US Department of Justice had also launched a previously undisclosed criminal investigation back in 2021 over Tesla’s alleged claims that its electric vehicles (EVs) can drive themselves.

Now a letter published on the NHTSA website on Thursday, says that if Tesla fails to supply the federal agency with information about its advanced driver assistance systems, which are marketed as Autopilot, Full Self-Driving and FSD Beta options in the US, the company faces “civil penalties of up to $26,315 per violation per day, with a maximum of $131,564,183996 for a related series of daily violations.”

The letter was reportedly sent to Tesla on 3 July, and it seeks updates to questions it had asked in August 2022.

The letter is now reportedly demanding answers by 19 July.

Among other details, the NHTSA wants information on which versions of Tesla’s software, hardware and other components have been installed in each car that was sold, leased or in use in the US from model years 2014 to 2023, as well as the date when any Tesla vehicle was “admitted into the ‘Full-Self Driving beta’ program.”

Tesla’s vice president of vehicle engineering, Lars Moravy, did not immediately respond to a request for comment, CNBC reported.

High profile crashes

In recent years Tesla EVs have been at the centre of a number of incidents surrounding the use of automated driving systems, including multiple accidents and indeed fatalities.

But it is Tesla’s crashes into emergency vehicles that is especially concerning the US authorities.

In December 2019 for example, a driver was charged after he placed his Tesla Model 3 on autopilot so he could check on his dog in the back seat.

copyright Connecticut State Police

Unfortunately, the Model 3 (whilst in its autonomous driving mode) failed to avoid crashing into a stationary police car of the Connecticut State Police, which had its blue flashing lights on, as it attended to a broken down car.

Copyright Connecticut State Police

In September 2021, five police officers in Texas sued Tesla after they, and a police dog, were ‘badly injured’ after an unnamed driver crashed his Tesla Model X into the back of two parked police cruisers at 70mph (112kph), after they had stopped to investigate a fourth vehicle for suspected narcotics offences.

The driver was drunk and had used his Tesla to drive him home, when it crashed and wrecked the police cars, and left the police officers with “severe injuries and permanent disabilities.”

An additional Tesla accident resulted in the first-ever US case of an individual being charged with vehicular manslaughter in January 2022, when their Model S went through an intersection with Autopilot engaged, striking a Honda Civic and killing two people.