Tesla has come under fire from federal and state regulators over both the safety and capabilities of its advanced Autopilot driver assistance system.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) asked Tesla on Thursday to answer questions about the in-cab camera as part of an ongoing investigation into 830,000 Tesla vehicles with Autopilot. Tesla says the cabin camera is built with a driver monitoring system that can determine if a driver is not paying attention and send them audio alerts as a reminder to keep their eyes on the road while Autopilot is on.
Having previously relied on a system that could detect when a driver’s hands were on the wheel, Tesla introduced its camera-based driver monitoring system in May last year.
The NHTSA probe also demanded information about how Tesla generates its quarterly safety reports, which a recent Virginia Transportation Research Council report found to be misleading.
Separately, in late July, California’s Department of Motor Vehicles Tesla accused of false advertising are Autopilot and the so-called “full self-driving” (FSD) system, another more advanced ADAS that costs drivers an additional $12,000 for automated driving features such as the parking function Summon or Navigate on Autopilot, which drives cars from a freeway ramp. controlled turn.
Tesla responded Thursday by the California DMV to request a hearing to defend itself against claims that it misled potential customers. Under the DMV’s charge handling process, Tesla has the right to request a hearing to defend itself. This could lead to a settlement discussion between the department and Tesla, after which the RDW will hold a hearing with the Office of Administrative Hearings, a spokesperson for the RDW said.
The increased heat on Tesla comes as the NHTSA is investigating 16 crashes where Tesla owners may have used Autopilot and then crashed into stationary emergency vehicles, resulting in 15 injuries and one fatality.
NHTSA’s nine-page letter requires Tesla to respond to various requests by September 19, such as the role Tesla’s cabin camera plays in enforcing driver involvement and detailed descriptions of how the automaker has designed and developed the system that enforces driver involvement and attentiveness, “including evidence justifying the time the driver is allowed to have his hands off the wheel before receiving a warning…”.
NHTSA also asked Tesla to identify any lawsuit in the US involving Tesla in which a party claimed a motor vehicle accident was related to Autopilot, and to review the process and methodology for Tesla’s Vehicle Safety Reports.
Tesla has until October 12 to submit detailed information from the CAN logs or video/data clips related to each accident vehicle on a separate listing provided by NHTSA. The information NHTSA looks for includes the time Autopilot was engaged, the road class at the time of impact, and data about both the system and driver behavior just before the impact.
NHTSA told londonbusinessblog.com it cannot comment on open investigations, but that the agency “routinely sends inquiry letters as part of its investigation process.”