Not long ago, we informed you that The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) would undergo a formal investigation into Tesla's Autopilot and related advanced driver-assist systems (ADAS). Shortly after the probe became public, another Tesla vehicle struck a police car and another stopped vehicle. The driver claims the car was on Autopilot.
If the previous crashes weren't enough, the recent crash may have been the final straw. Now, NHTSA has sent Tesla a lengthy letter with a long list of questions. Most importantly, NHTSA has requested specific information related to how Tesla's vehicle safety technology responds to emergency vehicles.
If the fact that the letter is 11 pages isn't enough to get your attention, the content of the letter is sure to open your eyes. NHSTA sent the letter to Tesla this week. It was addressed to Tesla Field Quality Director Eddie Gates and dated Tuesday, September 31. You can check out the entire letter by clicking here. We've included the introductory paragraphs below:
“This letter is to inform you that the Office of Defects Investigation (ODI) of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has opened a Preliminary Evaluation (PE21-020) to investigate crashes involving first responder scenes and vehicles manufactured by Tesla, Inc. (Tesla) that were operating in either Autopilot or Traffic Aware Cruise Control leading up to the incident, and to request certain information.
This office is aware of twelve incidents where a Tesla vehicle operating in either Autopilot or Traffic Aware Cruise Control struck first responder vehicles / scenes, leading to injuries and vehicle damage. In each case, NHTSA has reviewed the incidents with Tesla. A list of the twelve incidents has been included for reference.”
NHTSA not only wants to know how Tesla's Autopilot system and Traffic-Aware Cruise Control respond to emergency vehicles, but more specifically, what it's supposed to do if an emergency vehicle is parked on the road. The requested details include specifics about the detection of the vehicles, flashing lights, flares, vests on first responders, etc.
If Tesla's systems can "see" and identify people, animals, cones, traffic lights, and much more, it would be assumed it can see emergency vehicles, flashing lights, and many other items and obstacles that would be present at the scene of a crash or incident. NHTSA also inquires about Tesla's system capabilities in low-light situations.
NHTSA just added a 12th emergency vehicle crash to its list not long after a Tesla hit a parked police car in Florida. In total, the organization says some 17 people were injured, and sadly, there was one fatality. However, the investigation covers a whopping total of 765,000 Tesla cars and SUVs from model years 2014 to 2021.
While there's a whole lot more to take in regarding the 11-page letter, which we suggest you check out in its entirety, NHTSA also requested details from Tesla related to where Autopilot and the other ADAS features are able to operate successfully, as well as how the systems ensure that drivers are alert and aware. Finally, NHTSA has requested details from Tesla about customer lawsuits and complaints, as well as any ongoing arbitration.
Tesla must respond by October 22, 2021, or attempt to get an extension. If it doesn't comply, NHTSA may fine the company $114 million or more.