The U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) is in the midst of an investigation into Tesla and more than a dozen crashes into emergency vehicles since 2018, allegedly when Autopilot was engaged.
After the investigation was launched, Tesla began sending a new software update to some vehicles that allowed them to detect and slow down for emergency response lights. Early examples of the feature in action showed it worked exactly as advertised.
As the NHTSA continues their investigation, they appear to be accusing Tesla of skirting the rules and deploying the software update without an official recall notice.
In a letter to Tesla’s Director, Field Quality Eddie Gates dated October 12, 2021, the NHTSA says Tesla is aware the Safety Act requires automakers to initiate a recall if they discover a safety issue in their cars.
As Tesla is aware, the Safety Act imposes an obligation on manufacturers of motor vehicles and motor vehicle equipment to initiate a recall by notifying NHTSA when they determine vehicles or equipment they produced contain defects related to motor vehicle safety or do not comply with an applicable motor vehicle safety standard.
The letter goes on to say that the Act applies to over-the-air (OTA) software updates.
Any manufacturer issuing an over-the-air update that mitigates a defect that poses an unreasonable risk to motor vehicle safety is required to timely file an accompanying recall notice to NHTSA pursuant to 49 U.S.C. § 30118 and 49 C.F.R. Part 573.
As a result, the NHTSA is requesting a large amount of data in regards to how Tesla decided to deploy the Emergency Light Detection Update. This includes a “chronology of events, internal investigations, and studies leading up to the release”, as well as a statement whether they plan to file a safety recall with them.
Additionally, they are interested in learning more about Tesla’s expansion of the Full Self-Driving (FSD) beta program. Specifically, they want a detailed description of all the selection criteria used in the process.
They are also requesting the number of owners that pushed the button.
You can read the full letter below.Tesla NHTSA letter Oct 12 2021