NHTSA requests detailed data from Tesla on effectiveness of Autopilot OTA recall

Two weeks ago Drive Tesla reported that the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), through its Office of Defects Investigation (ODI), had launched a new investigation into Tesla’s Autopilot over-the-air (OTA) recall. Now the NHTSA has officially requested information from Tesla if the fixes implemented in the OTA recall were effective enough to ensure that drivers remain engaged while the feature is active.

According to an 18-page letter dated May 6, 2024, send to Director, Field Quality at Tesla Eddie Gates, the NHTSA has noted concerns regarding the effectiveness of the fixes implemented. One of the fixes included increased driver alerts on roads with intersections. However, the NHTSA’s investigators pointed out inconsistencies in these alerts and could not identify significant differences in driver attention warnings before and after the recall.

The NHTSA has requested detailed information on how Tesla developed and verified the effectiveness of the recall. The agency has asked Tesla about the use of human behavior science in developing the Autopilot system, and on the qualifications and roles of individuals involved in evaluating driver behavior and whether these positions still exist.

Among the information and data the agency wants Tesla to provide includes:

  1. The methodology used in developing the recall fix.
  2. Analysis regarding human behavior’s impact on Autopilot safety.
  3. Details on job positions focused on human behavior evaluation.
  4. Information about how many drivers activated the recall’s new “more pronounced slowdown” feature that alerts drivers when Autopilot disengages.

After the OTA update, Tesla introduced further safety measures not originally included in the recall. These measures aimed to minimize crashes due to hydroplaning and collisions at high-speed turn lanes. The NHTSA also wants clarity on why these updates weren’t included in the initial recall and how they impacted vehicle performance.

The NHTSA’s investigation requires Tesla to provide this data, something which has been reluctant to do in the past, with potential fines of up to $135 million if they fail to comply. Tesla’s reply must be submitted to the NHTSA by July 1, 2024.

You can read the full letter below.

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