US safety agency asks Tesla how its autopilot responds to emergency vehicles

The US National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has asked EV giant Tesla to explain in a detailed way how its Autopilot system detects and responds to emergency vehicles parked on highways. The request was made by the safety agency in an eleven-page letter sent to the EV maker.

File photo of a Tesla vehicle involved in a crash used for representational purpose only. (via REUTERS)
File photo of a Tesla vehicle involved in a crash used for representational purpose only.

The letter is a part of the broader investigation that the NHTSA has started in the aftermath of eleven crashes that involved partially automated Tesla autopilot system and parked first responder vehicles. The safety agency wants to understand how Tesla's driver assistance system detects or interprets a crash scene, flashing lights, road flares, reflective vests worn by responders and vehicles parked on the road.

(Also read | Tesla moves a step closer to making India debut with four models approved)

Another related query askes Tesla to answer how its autopilot system responds to low light conditions, what actions it takes if emergency vehicles are present, and how it warns drivers.

Just recently, the NHTSA added a twelfth crash to its list of investigation where a Tesla vehicle operating on a partially automated driver assistance system crashed into a parked police patrol cruiser on a Florida Highway. In all these crashes, at least 17 people were injured and one was killed.

The NHTSA's probe into Tesla autopilot system covers 765,000 vehicles from the 2014 through 2021 model years. The safety agency has stated that most of these collisions have occurred during the night but the accident locations had illuminated arrow boards and cones.

Tesla autopilot, which is essentially advanced driver assistance system to help keep vehicles in their lanes and stop for obstacles in front of them, has been often misused by Tesla drivers. They have been caught driving drunk or even riding in the back seat while their car rolled down the roads.

The eleven-page letter also asks Tesla how it ensures that drivers pay attention while on the road, including instrument panel and aural warnings.

(with inputs from the Associated Press)

First Published Date: 02 Sep 2021, 09:30 AM IST
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