Federal vehicle regulators sent a letter to Tesla last month ordering the company to send data about its driver assistance and monitoring systems because of a secret feature that allows users to use Autopilot without putting their hands on the steering wheel. Provides facility.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration posted the letter on its website Wednesday, saying the secret hands-free feature — nicknamed “alone mode” — is causing concern for driver safety.
John Donaldson, the agency’s acting chief counsel, wrote, “NHTSA is concerned that this feature was introduced for consumer vehicles, and that now that the feature’s existence is known to the public, more drivers may attempt to activate it. ”
Donaldson continued, “The relaxation of controls designed to ensure that the driver will continue to engage in a dynamic driving task may result in increased driver inattention and a driver’s failure to properly monitor Autopilot.”
Autopilot usually requires drivers to keep their hands on the wheel at all times, and is usually warned if they don’t. “Alone Mode” turns off those warnings, leaving drivers completely hands-free.
The company has repeatedly reiterated that driver attention when the vehicle is on Autopilot is essential to avoid accidents, as the technology has come under increased scrutiny from regulators.
The letter sought an answer from the company as to why it launched this feature and what are its plans for future distribution. The company had to respond by August 25, or face a fine of $26,000 per day. It is not clear whether the company responded to the letter.
The Hill has contacted Tesla for comment.
Last month, the California Attorney General’s Office announced an investigation into the security of Tesla’s Autopilot software. The office alleged that Tesla’s Autopilot was less safe than advertised and that the advertising of its capabilities was misleading.
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