The update allows Tesla drivers to use the FSD for extended periods of time without touching the steering wheel, whereas previously drivers were required to keep their hands on the wheel while operating the car in FSD and Autopilot modes.
In response, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration sent a letter to Tesla demanding that it explain the update, how many vehicles have been equipped with it, and how the company plans to deploy it in the future. Failure to respond could result in an escalating series of fines for the EV maker.
“NHTSA is concerned that this feature was introduced to consumer vehicles and, now that the existence of this feature is known to the public, more drivers may attempt to activate it. The resulting relaxation of controls designed to ensure that the driver remain engaged in the dynamic driving task could lead to greater driver inattention and failure of the driver to properly supervise Autopilot,” the letter stated.
Despite claims made to the contrary by Tesla, the company’s FSD feature has been shown to be unsafe for Tesla drivers, other drivers who share the road with them, and pedestrians. A report in The Washington Post from several months ago showed that the driver-assistance system has been involved in at least 736 crashes and 17 fatalities over the course of its four-year existence in the U.S.
Another Washington Post report detailed how Tesla drivers are buying products that allow them to trick the system into thinking they are paying attention, making the feature even less safe.
Now, if Tesla is not requiring American drivers to pay any attention at all to the road while operating Autopilot and FSD — as Tesla CEO Elon Musk has been threatening to do for years — the features could become even more deadly.
Join our free newsletter for weekly updates on the coolest innovations improving our lives and saving our planet.