A 2019 Tesla Model 3 crashed into a Florida Highway Patrol car in Orlando on the morning of August 28, 2021. No injuries were reported.
Courtesy: Florida Highway Patrol
The National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration has included a 12th accident as part of its investigation into Tesla’s autopilot system and requires the company to provide full data on its driver assistance systems by October 22nd.
Autopilot is Tesla’s driver assistance system that is standard on all newer models. Tesla is also selling an upgraded version under the brand name “Full Self Driving” for $ 10,000 or to subscribers for $ 199 per month in the United States. Its autopilot and FSD offerings do not make Tesla vehicles safe to operate without a driver behind the wheel – the systems can control some aspects of the car, but “active driver monitoring” is required, according to Tesla’s website.
As reported by CNBC, the NHTSA’s Deficiency Investigation Bureau opened a safety investigation in August after the agency found autopilot was being used prior to collisions between Tesla electric cars and first-aid vehicles. These previous accidents caused 17 injuries and one death.
A recent accident in Orlando, Florida that involved a Tesla Model 3 and a police car is now part of the investigation. The Tesla driver in this incident narrowly missed a soldier and informed officers that she was using the car’s autopilot function at the time of the collision.
The NHTSA’s letter to Tesla also sets a deadline of October 22, 2021, by which the company must provide extensive autopilot and vehicle data to the Federal Automobile Safety Authority.
The NHTSA has the power to order recalls if it determines that a vehicle or part of it is defective, including software defined systems such as autopilot.
In the letter addressed to Tesla’s Director of Field Quality, Eddie Gates, NHTSA provides a detailed list of the information it needs to evaluate to determine whether Tesla’s autopilot and traffic-aware cruise control caused or contributed to accidents involving first-aid vehicles.
A professor of electrical and computer engineering at Carnegie Mellon University, Phil Koopman, described the NHTSA’s data request as “really comprehensive”.
He noted that the agency had asked for information on Tesla’s entire autopilot-equipped fleet, which includes the cars, software, and hardware Tesla sold from 2014 to 2021 (not just the 12 vehicles involved in the rescue workers’ accidents were involved).
He said, “This is an incredibly detailed query for huge amounts of data. But it’s exactly the kind of information that is needed to find out if Tesla vehicles are acceptably safe.”
The National Transportation Safety Board, another federal security watchdog, has urged the NHTSA to set stricter standards for automated vehicle technology, including Tesla Autopilot.
Tesla did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Read NHTSA’s entire letter to Tesla here.