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Monday, October 18, 2021

U.S. asks Tesla why it did not recall Autopilot after software changes

The logo of car manufacturer Tesla is seen at a dealership in London, Britain, May 14, 2021. REUTERS/Matthew Childs

WASHINGTON, Oct 13 (Reuters) – U.S. auto safety regulators asked Tesla Inc (TSLA.O) why the electric-car maker has not issued a recall to address software changes made to its Autopilot driver-assistance system to improve the vehicles’ ability to detect emergency vehicles.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) in August opened a formal safety probe into Tesla’s Autopilot system after a series of crashes involving Tesla models and emergency vehicles.

To date, NHTSA has identified 12 crashes that involved Tesla vehicles using the advanced driver-assistance systems and emergency vehicles.

NHTSA asked about Tesla’s distribution last month of functionality to certain Tesla vehicle models intended to improve detection of emergency vehicle lights in low light conditions, and Tesla’s early October 2021 release of the Full Self-Driving Beta Request Menu option.

NHTSA noted that the law says automakers must issue a recall “when they determine vehicles or equipment they produced contain defects related to motor vehicle safety or do not comply with an applicable motor vehicle safety standard.”

The safety regulator said the updates were to help detect flashing emergency vehicle lights in low light conditions “and then responding to said detection with driver alerts and changes to the vehicle speed while AutoPilot is engaged.”

Tesla must respond by Nov. 1 to NHTSA’s letter.

Tesla did not immediately comment.

Separately, NHTSA asked Tesla about its “Autosteer on City Streets” which the company also refers to as “Full Self-Driving” (FSD) released in October 2020, and raised concerns about limits on disclosure by drivers of safety issues.

“Despite Tesla’s characterization of FSD as ‘beta,’ it is capable of and is being used on public roads,” NHTSA said.

It added it was aware of reports that participants in Tesla’s FSD early-access beta release program “have non-disclosure agreements that allegedly limit the participants from sharing information about FSD that portrays the feature negatively, or from speaking with certain people about FSD…. even limitations on sharing certain information publicly adversely impacts NHTSA’s ability to obtain information relevant to safety.”

Reporting by David Shepardson in Washington Tiyashi Datta in Bengaluru; Editing by Anil D’Silva and Bernadette Baum

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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