Tesla receives Special Order from NHTSA Amid Autopilot Investigation
Tesla has formally received a Special Order from the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA) concerning the ongoing examination of its Autopilot system, initially initiated in June 2022. Notably, this inquiry has progressed from the preliminary evaluation phase established back in August 2021.
At the heart of the matter are the NHTSA’s reservations about Tesla’s Autopilot’s efficacy in alerting drivers about their attentiveness level when utilizing the driver assistance feature. In a key letter sent to Tesla’s Senior Director of Legal on July 26, these concerns were articulated.
The NHTSA conveyed in the official letter:
“The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration recently learned of Tesla’s introduction of an Autopilot configuration that permits drivers to use the feature without receiving prompts to apply torque to the steering wheel for extended periods. NHTSA is troubled by the deployment of this feature in consumer vehicles. With the public now aware of this capability, there’s potential for an increase in attempts to engage it. The relaxation of controls designed to maintain driver engagement in the driving task raises concerns about heightened driver inattention and inadequate supervision of the Autopilot system.”
Tesla was directed to address this Special Order by August 25, which passed last Friday, in order to avoid potential fines amounting to $26,315 per day.
Initial coverage of the issuance of the Special Order was reported by Bloomberg, with the NHTSA sharing relevant documentation pertaining to the matter with Teslarati.
The Special Order mandates that Tesla furnish the following information to the NHTSA:
- Software Updates Timeline:
- Specify introduction dates of Software Updates within Tesla’s engineering processes and their subsequent integration into consumer vehicles.
- Activation Procedure for Torque Reduction Setting:
- Outline the steps involved in enabling the software update’s torque reduction setting, designed to minimize instances of Autopilot requesting torque application by the driver.
- Reversion Steps for Activated Updates:
- Detail the specific steps or conditions necessary to return a vehicle with an activated software update to its standard operating state.
- Discrepancies in Torque Prompt Setting:
- Highlight differences between the software update’s torque prompt feature when activated and deactivated in Autopilot’s driver monitoring system. Include details about the permissible duration of autonomous operation without torque prompts and any accompanying driver alerts.
- Changes in Vehicle Interface, Autopilot, and Control:
- Enumerate any alterations in the vehicle’s user interface, Autopilot capabilities, and control authority resulting from the software update.
- Basis for Consumer Vehicle Software Installation:
- Explain Tesla’s rationale or objectives for implementing the subject software in consumer vehicles beyond the scope of engineering vehicles. Specify the criteria determining eligibility for the software update among consumers and vehicle owners.
- Insights from Software-Enabled Driving:
- Share any valuable insights, lessons learned, or findings derived from operating vehicles equipped with the subject software update.
- Functionality Documentation for Subject Software:
- Provide comprehensive documentation elucidating the operational functionality of the subject software update.
- Test Plans and Instructions for Engineering Staff:
- Present the test plans and instructions furnished to Tesla’s engineering personnel tasked with assessing the software update through driving evaluations using engineering vehicles.
- Crash and Near-Miss Reports with Enabled Software:
- Compile and present crash and incident reports involving collisions or near-miss scenarios where vehicles equipped with the software update were involved.
Recently, NHTSA Administrator Ann Carlson indicated that a resolution to the Autopilot investigation is anticipated “in the relatively near future.”
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