US safety regulators request data from carmakers to assist in Tesla probe

Alexi Falson

The US National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has called on a number of major automakers to provide data on their self-driving and driver assistance programs to aid its investigation into Tesla’s Autopilot system.

As reported last month, the NHTSA opened a formal probe into Tesla’s Autopilot system for a dozen crashes involving Tesla models that had “encountered first responder scenes and subsequently struck one or more vehicles”.

The NHTSA’s probe is trying to determine whether or not Tesla’s Autopilot system malfunctioned when presented with things like lights, road cones and even flares that were used by emergency first responders on the side of the road. More than 765,000 Teslas produced between 2014 and 2021 are implicated in the NHTSA’s safety probe.

Fast-forward one month, and we now know the NHTSA’s Office of Defects Investigation unit has contacted 12 separate manufacturers that have created their own versions of Level 2 autonomous-driving or driver-assistance programs.

These manufacturers include General Motors, Stellantis, Honda, Nissan, Subaru, Ford, Toyota’s North American division and Volkswagen of America, requesting data on their Level 2 driving assistance programs, which can take control over the vehicle’s steering, braking and acceleration.

According to reports, the NHTSA is looking to gather data on how many vehicles have been fitted with Level 2 autonomous driving tech, as well as data on how many miles have been travelled with the tech and what updates have been applied to those systems.

It’s understood that it is also looking to gather complaints, lawsuits, police reports and any details related to crashes involving driver assistance programs. The agency wants to know the details of any crashes that the driver assistance programs were activated “anytime during the period beginning 30 seconds immediately prior to the commencement of the crash”.

According to a report by Automotive News, those makers must provide an “overview of their approach to enforce driver engagement or attentiveness while the systems are in use”, as well as provide details on “the methods and technologies used to prevent usage outside the operational design”.

A number of those manufacturers, including Ford, GM and Stellantis have until the November 3 to respond to the NHTSA’s data request, while the rest have until the November 27. In the event they fail to provide evidence, they could be liable for civil penalties of up to $115 million.

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