NHTSA’s Inquiry into Tesla Autopilot’s Driver Monitoring

Last week, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) concluded an investigation on Tesla Autopilot and simultaneously opened a Recall Query on an Over-the-Air Software Update that Tesla issued to drivers in December. The agency now seeks additional information from the automaker for a thorough investigation of the query.

The software update aimed to simplify the activation of Autopilot, enhance the strictness of Autopilot when exiting a highway, increase driver monitoring after Autopilot activation, implement a one-week suspension for misuse of Autopilot, and enhance the size and visibility of alerts. [Tesla release notes detail remedies to address NHTSA Autopilot “recall”]

In a new document released to the public, the NHTSA reported that 20 crashes have occurred since the implementation of these new driver monitoring features and is looking to further understand the recall.

The agency indicated that it did not observe a distinction in the pre and post-recall systems: “NHTSA completed preliminary testing at its Vehicle Research and Test Center (VRTC). In its evaluation of the remedy, VRTC was unable to identify a difference in the initiation of the driver warning cascade between pre-remedy and post-remedy (camera obscured) conditions.

ODI will evaluate the adequacy of recall remedy warnings as part of this investigation.” Additionally, the NHTSA mentioned that the recall’s initial feature, the single pull activation of Autopilot, is not the default setting, and can be easily enabled or disabled by consumers.

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