The Associated Press reported that Tesla is facing civil fines of more than $114 million and court action by US security investigators if it does not disclose why it did not issue a security recall when it updated Autopilot software.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) sent a letter to Tesla on Tuesday, asking the manufacturer to recall the vehicles if the over-the-Internet update is related to a safety flaw. Updated to better identify parked emergency vehicles.
In a letter to Tesla director Eddie Gates, the agency said, “Any manufacturer that releases an over-the-air update that mitigates a defect that poses an unreasonable risk to automotive safety must be considered in a timely manner.” NHTSA is required to file a recall notice simultaneously.” area quality.
Tesla has until November 1 to comply with NHTSA requests or face fines and court action, the agency wrote.
For more reporting from the Associated Press, see below.
In August, the agency launched an investigation into Tesla’s Autopilot, finding multiple reports of vehicles crashing into emergency vehicles with warning lights stopped on highways. The software can keep cars in their lane and at a safe distance from the vehicles in front of them.
Messages were left early Wednesday seeking comment from Tesla.
NHTSA launched a formal investigation into Autopilot after a series of collisions with parked emergency vehicles. The investigation covers 765,000 vehicles, nearly everything Tesla has sold in the US since the start of the 2014 model year. Of the dozen accidents involved in the investigation, 17 people were injured and one died.
According to the agency, Tesla rolled out an over-the-Internet software update in late September aimed at improving the detection of emergency vehicle lights in low light conditions. The agency says Tesla is aware that federal law requires automakers to recall if they find that the vehicles have safety defects.
The agency sought information about Tesla’s “Emergency Light Detection Update,” which was sent to certain vehicles, “aimed at detecting flashing emergency vehicle lights in low light conditions and then with driver alerts for the said detection and Asked to respond to changes in vehicle speed. Autopilot engaged.”
The letter asks for a list of events that prompted the software update, as well as which vehicles it was sent to and whether the measures extend to Tesla’s entire fleet.
It also asks the Palo Alto, Calif., company if it intends to file the recall document. “If not, please present Tesla’s technical and/or legal grounds for refusing to do so,” the agency asks.
Philip Koopman, a professor of electrical and computer engineering at Carnegie Mellon University, said NHTSA clearly wants Tesla to issue a recall. “They’re giving Tesla a chance to have a say before bringing the hammer down,” said Koopman, who studies automated vehicle safety.
When automakers find a safety defect, they must notify NHTSA within five working days, and they will be required to recall. NHTSA monitors recalls to make sure they cover all affected vehicles. Automakers are required to notify all owners with letters explaining the repair, which must be done at the company’s expense.
A public recall allows owners to be sure that repairs have been made, and so people who buy the car are aware of potential safety problems.
NHTSA’s actions gave notice to all automakers that when they update software via the Internet, they must notify the agency when the security issue is fixed. It’s another new technology the agency has to deal with as many automakers follow Tesla with Internet software capability.
“Now every company has exposure every time they update over-the-air because NHTSA can come back weeks later and say ‘Wait a minute, this was a sneak recall,'” Koopman said. .
In a separate order to Tesla, NHTSA says the company moves to obstruct the agency’s access to safety information by requiring drivers testing “full self-driving” software to sign nondisclosure agreements. can lift.
The order demands that Tesla describe the non-disclosure agreements and say whether the company requires owners of vehicles with Autopilot to “agree to any terms that allow vehicle owners to share information about any aspect of Autopilot.” prevent or discourage discussion with anyone other than him. Tesla.”
Must be answered by Tesla officer under oath. If Tesla fails to comply fully, the order says the matter may be referred to the Justice Department. It also threatens fines of more than $114 million.
It was unclear how Tesla and CEO Elon Musk would respond to NHTSA’s demands. The company and Musk have a long history of disputes with federal regulators.
Musk fought with the Securities and Exchange Commission over a 2018 tweet that claimed he had the financing to take Tesla private when that money was no longer secure. He and the company agreed to pay $20 million each to settle allegations of misleading investors. Musk branded the SEC as the “Shortseller Promotion Commission,” distorting the meaning of its acronym. Short sellers bet that the stock price will fall.
NHTSA’s new demands indicate a tougher regulatory stance under President Joe Biden on automatic vehicle safety than in the previous administration. The agency had appeared reluctant to regulate the new technology for fear of potentially hindering the adoption of life-saving systems.