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  • Writer's pictureRealFacts Editorial Team

Tesla Faces Increased Scrutiny Over Autopilot System Following NHTSA Investigation

Tesla car in front of a Tesla sign

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) is intensifying its scrutiny of Tesla’s Autopilot driver assistance system, seeking clarifications regarding alterations made after a software recall affecting around 2 million U.S. vehicles in December. With a deadline set for July 1, Tesla faces potential fines reaching $135.8 million if it fails to comply, as stated in the NHTSA's letter to the company dated May 6. This recall aimed to enhance Tesla’s driver-engagement mechanisms, which are crucial for monitoring the safe utilization of features such as traffic-aware cruise control and auto steering. However, despite these efforts, post-recall data shows the involvement of at least 20 Tesla vehicles in crashes allegedly utilizing the system.

The NHTSA’s investigation stems from a three-year examination revealing Autopilot-related safety concerns, implicating the system in 467 collisions and 14 fatalities from January 2018 to August 2023. It concluded that drivers in these incidents were inadequately engaged, with Autopilot warnings failing to ensure sustained attention to driving tasks. Tesla’s driver-engagement systems, incorporating torque sensors and in-cabin cameras, are designed to alert inattentive drivers. To probe further, the NHTSA is demanding comprehensive crash data from Tesla, including stored and streamed video, along with insights into the company’s safety protocols and engineering strategies.

Amidst these inquiries, Tesla is undergoing significant organizational restructuring and layoffs, although specifics regarding reductions in Autopilot and vehicle safety engineering teams remain undisclosed. CEO Elon Musk’s longstanding commitment to autonomous driving technology is compared with Tesla’s recent sales decline, prompting a shift in focus towards future AI-driven endeavors like robot axis and humanoid robots. These developments coincide with a 3.8% drop in Tesla’s shares, reflecting a 28% decline year-to-date, underscoring the gravity of the situation for both the company and its stakeholders.

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