The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) received a new Safety Advisor last year, Dr. Mary “Missy” Cummings.
Cummings was appointed into the role by the Biden administration, after having worked as an engineering and computer science professor at Duke University’s Humans and Autonomy Lab.
Prior to the appointment, Cummings was a vocal critic of Tesla’s approach to autonomy and Full Self-Driving.
She used to voice those concerns on Twitter, frequently bashing the company and its CEO Elon Musk, until deleting her account late last year.
Cummings was also serving on the Board of Directors and receiving a $400,000 salary from Veoneer, a company that specializes in developing and manufacturing advanced driver-assistance systems (ADAS). The company focused their efforts on LiDAR, a technology which Musk has said has no future in autonomous driving.
That bias, and perceived conflict of interest lead to a petition on Change.org asking for Cumming’s appointment to be rescinded.
Although it is unclear if the petition, which received tens of thousands of signatures, had any impact, a source familiar with the matter told the Wall Street Journal that the agency has ordered Dr. Cummings to recuse herself from any matters relating to Tesla.
The private order was later confirmed by a U.S. Department of Transportation spokesperson.
The change should make Elon Musk happy, after having tweeted that “her track record is extremely biased against Tesla.”
Objectively, her track record is extremely biased against Tesla
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) October 20, 2021
After news of her appointment broke last year, Cummings said in an email to Reuters that she would be resigning from Veoneer’s board.
However, Cummings still appears on the Board of Directors listing on the company’s website at the time of publication.