Senators Push NHTSA for Action After Latest Tesla Accident

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【Summary】The two United States senators are requesting the NHTSA to develop more guidance concerning driver-assist systems after the latest accident involving Tesla’s Autopilot system.

Original Vineeth Joel Patel    May 31, 2021 7:00 AM PT
Senators Push NHTSA for Action After Latest Tesla Accident

Tesla's no stranger to getting in trouble because of its semi-autonomous Autopilot system. The automaker, yet again, is in the limelight after a recent crash where nobody was behind the steering wheel. Because of the incident, two U.S. senators are urging the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to develop guidelines for advanced driver-assist systems.

Senators Want New Regulations

Sen. Ed Markey of Massachusetts and Sen. Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut, according to The Wall Street Journal, have sent a letter to the NHTSA. The letter asks the government agency to develop recommendations to improve modern advanced driver-assist features.

"The most recent Tesla crash is the latest in a rash of accidents - the 28th - that NHTSA is investigating involving a Tesla car. We fear safety concerns involving these vehicles are becoming a pattern, which is incredibly worrisome and deserves your undivided attention," the senators, who both sit on the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, wrote to NHTSA, according to a copy of the letter viewed by Business Insider.

The calls for action come immediately after the recent automobile incident involving one of Tesla's vehicles. According to local police reports, no one was behind the wheel of the vehicle when it was crashed. One person was found in the front passenger seat, while the other was located in the back of the vehicle. Both passengers were killed in the crash. While it seems unlikely that people would climb out of the driver's seat on a limb, official information on whether Autopilot was engaged isn't available yet. Tesla CEO Elon Musk claimed that the automaker's data logs revealed that the advanced driver-assist system wasn't engaged at the time of the crash.

Tesla Comes Under Scrutiny

This isn't the first time we've heard about drivers abusing Tesla's Autopilot system. If anything, it's become a bit of a regular occurrence. That's exactly what the senators are looking to fix. Safety advocates have stated that Tesla exaggerates the capability of its Autopilot system for years and have urged the NHTSA to set strict guidelines as a way of enforcing what's actually possible. Take Tesla's "Full Self-Driving" system as an example. The automaker launched the beta release of the system in October. At the time, the NHTSA stated that "no vehicle available for purchase today is capable of driving itself."

It's not a one-time occurrence. Recently, Consumer Reports published a report on how its engineers were able to trick Autopilot into driving without a human in the driver's seat. That, for a system that cannot drive itself, is dangerous. It's unclear what kind of action the NHTSA will take, if any.

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