U.S. asks Tesla about Musk tweet on driver monitoring function

U.S. asks Tesla about Musk tweet on driver monitoring function

WASHINGTON, Jan 9 (Reuters) – The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) said on Monday it was in contact with Tesla ( TSLA.O ) about a tweet Chief Executive Elon Musk wrote about a feature of driver monitoring.

A Dec. 31 tweet suggested drivers with more than 10,000 miles using Tesla’s “Full Self-Driving” (FSD) software system should be able to turn off “steering wheel stimulation,” an alert that instructs drivers hold the wheel to confirm they are paying attention. Musk replied: “Okay, the update is coming in January.”

NHTSA said Monday that it “is in contact with Tesla to gather additional information.” The Associated Press earlier reported NHTSA’s statement. Tesla did not immediately comment.

The auto safety agency confirmed that questions about Musk’s tweet are related to its ongoing investigation into defects in 830,000 Tesla vehicles with the Autopilot driver assistance system and that include collisions with parked emergency vehicles.

NHTSA is looking into whether Tesla’s vehicles adequately ensure drivers are paying attention, and previously evidence suggested that drivers in most of the crashes under review were complying with Tesla’s warning strategy that seeks to compel driver attention , raising questions about its effectiveness.

Tesla sells the $15,000 FSD software as an add-on that enables its vehicles to change lanes and park autonomously. This complements its standard Autopilot feature, which enables cars to steer, accelerate and brake within their lanes without driver intervention. Both systems use the steering wheel monitoring function.

Last month, NHTSA said it had opened two new special investigations into crashes involving Tesla vehicles where advanced driver assistance systems were allegedly in use. Since 2016, NHTSA has opened more than three dozen separate investigations into Tesla crashes where advanced driver assistance systems like Autopilot were allegedly used in 19 reported crash deaths.

In December 2021, NHTSA opened an investigation into Tesla’s decision to allow games to be played by passengers on the front center touchscreen covering 580,000 vehicles over the vehicle’s “Passenger Game” over driver distraction concerns.

Shortly after the investigation was opened, Tesla told NHTSA it would stop allowing video games to be played on vehicle screens while its cars are in motion, the agency said.

Reporting by David Shepardson Editing by Nick Zieminski

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