The Feds Are Watching Tesla Very Carefully

Industry News / 16 Comments

There's a very good reason why.

Tesla announced last week that it was beginning to roll out full self-driving (FSD) beta testing to a select group of customers with proven safety records. This is, essentially, new software that enables Tesla drivers to fully utilize Autopilot's most advanced driver-assist features. Needless to say, this is a huge experiment and even Tesla admits it is one that requires constant monitoring.

Its important to note that speed limits are crucial because Tesla currently does not allow those beta testers to travel on highways; FSD is for local roads only. This will eventually change, but only after Tesla's FSD software is guaranteed to be safe. Naturally, the automaker's actions are being closely monitored by a certain government agency.

2017-2020 Tesla Model S P100D Front Angle View Tesla
2016-2020 Tesla Model X P100D Front View Driving Tesla

Reuters reports the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration is watching Tesla's most recent software release very closely. It even went as far as saying it is standing by to assist the public against any safety risks.

"NHTSA has been briefed on Tesla's new feature, which represents an expansion of its existing driver assistance system," says the official statement. "The agency will monitor the new technology closely and will not hesitate to take action to protect (the) public against unreasonable risks to safety."

The automaker didn't state exactly how many owners have been given access to the software update. Also last week, Elon Musk told investors the upgrade will be widely released by the end of the year. Basically, the more data it collects, the safer things will be upon release.

2016-2020 Tesla Model X P100D Dashboard Tesla
2017-2020 Tesla Model 3 Front View Driving Tesla

Still, the NHTSA isn't taking any chances on this one, and rightly so. Last July, the agency announced it had investigated 19 crashes involving Tesla owners who were believed to have had Autopilot engaged when the accident happened. Tesla refused to cooperate with earlier similar investigations.

One such crash occurred last December in Connecticut, where a Tesla Model 3 crashed into a police car parked on the side of the highway. Its driver had activated Autopilot and was not watching the road in front of him, but was rather checking on his dog in the rear seat. No injuries were reported but it was yet another example of owners not understanding Autopilot's limitations.

Connecticut State Police/Facebook
Connecticut State Police/Facebook

Not surprisingly, Tesla's latest beta rollout has stoked criticism from rivals such as Ford, GM, and Google's Waymo. Together, they've formed Partners for Automated Vehicle Education (PAVE). "Public road testing is a serious responsibility and using untrained consumers to validate beta-level software on public roads is dangerous and inconsistent with existing guidance and industry norms," PAVE said.

For now, there have been no reports of accidents.

2020 Tesla Model Y Side View Tesla
2016-2020 Tesla Model X P100D Rear View Driving Tesla
2017-2020 Tesla Model S P100D Front View Driving Tesla
Source Credits: Reuters

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