WASHINGTON, D.C.: Following a twelfth crash involving Tesla vehicles using advanced driver assistance systems in Orlando last Saturday, U.S. auto safety regulators sought answers from the automaker to detailed questions about its autopilot system.
On August 16, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration had opened a formal safety probe into Tesla's autopilot following 11 crashes. The probe covers 765,000 U.S. Tesla vehicles built between 2014 and 2021.
Tesla's autopilot handles some driving tasks and allows drivers to keep their hands off the wheel for extended periods. It enables vehicles to steer, accelerate and brake automatically within their lane.
Tesla must respond to the Traffic Safety Administration's questions by October 22 and disclose plans for any changes to autopilot within the next 120 days. The company could face civil penalties of up to $115 million if it fails to fully respond to the questions, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said.
Meanwhile, on Saturday the Florida Highway Patrol said the car of a Florida trooper who had stopped to assist a disabled motorist on a major highway was struck by a Tesla that the driver said was in autopilot mode. According to a police report released on Wednesday, the trooper "narrowly missed being struck as he was outside of his patrol car."
National Highway Traffic Safety Administration's request for information asks Tesla to detail how it detects and responds to emergency vehicles, as well as flashing lights, road flares, cones and barrels, and to detail the impact of low light conditions.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is also seeking information on the "date and mileage at which the 'Full Self Driving' option was enabled" for all vehicles, along with all consumer complaints, field reports, crash reports and lawsuits.
Further, the agency wants Tesla to explain how it prevents use of the system outside areas where it is intended.
Among the detailed questions, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration also asked Tesla to clarify "testing and validation required prior to the release of the subject system or an in-field update to the subject system, including hardware and software components of such systems."