Tue. Mar 21st, 2023


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Tesla is ordered to turn over Autopilot data to a federal safety agency.

2 min read

The main federal auto safety agency has ordered Tesla to hand over a trove of data on its Autopilot driver-assistance system as part of an investigation into Tesla cars crashing into fire trucks or other emergency vehicles parked on roads and highways.

In a letter dated Tuesday, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration told the electric carmaker to produce detailed information on how Autopilot works, how it ensures drivers are paying attention to the road and whether there are any limits on where it can be turned on.

The safety agency is also seeking detailed data on how many cars Tesla has sold in the United States, any arbitration proceedings or lawsuits related to Autopilot crashes that the company has been involved in, and the complaints Tesla has received about Autopilot from customers.

The agency asked Tesla to deliver the information by Oct. 22, noting that it could impose fines of up to $115 million if the company fails or refuses to comply. The letter is signed by Gregory Magno, chief of the vehicle defects division in the agency’s Office of Defects Investigation.

The safety agency informed Tesla weeks ago that it was looking into the spate of crashes in which Tesla vehicles operating on Autopilot failed to detect stopped emergency vehicles with flashing lights. The regulator originally said it was looking into 11 such crashes. A 12th occurred on Saturday, when a Model 3 hit a police cruiser that had stopped behind a car that had broken down on an interstate in Orlando, Fla.

The driver told the police that the Model 3 had been in Autopilot mode, according to the Florida Highway Patrol. The Tesla narrowly missed hitting a state trooper.

The request for data suggests that the safety agency’s investigation is moving quickly. Safety experts have criticized the agency for doing little to investigate a growing number of crashes, injuries and fatalities involving Tesla vehicles operating with Autopilot turned on over the last five years. The safety agency said this summer that it was looking into about 30 Autopilot-related crashes, including eight that resulted in 10 deaths.

Safety experts and another federal agency, the National Transportation Safety Board, have pointed out that Autopilot lacks effective safeguards to ensure drivers keep their eyes on the road and hands on the wheel while using the system. It is supposed to be used only on divided highways but lacks mechanisms for prohibiting use on local roads — features that General Motors, Ford Motor and other automakers have built into similar systems.

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