Tech

Tesla inches closer to recall as NHTSA probes autopilot software

Tesla model cars parked side by side

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration announced Thursday that it will significantly expand its investigation of Tesla’s autopilot system, which could potentially see more than 800,000 vehicles recalled, according to a report from the New York Times.

The nation’s top auto-safety agency moved forward with plans to upgrade its Preliminary Evaluation, which started last August, into an Engineering Analysis, which is the next step in a possible recall of hundreds of thousands of Tesla vehicles. The NHTSA plans to take a deeper look into how Tesla vehicles equipped with autopilot driver-assistance software navigate when interacting with first responder vehicles at the scene of a collision.

This isn’t the first time Tesla has been under investigation by the NHTSA. Back in August 2021, NHTSA opened the original probe into Tesla’s advanced driver-assist systems due to reports of crashes that left 17 people injured with one related fatality. Since then, the number of reported crashes has risen from 12 to 16.

Based on a document from the NHTSA Office of Defects, the motivation to upgrade the investigation status was because of “an accumulation of crashes in which Tesla vehicles, operating with Autopilot engaged, struck stationary in-road or roadside first responder vehicles tending to pre-existing collision scenes.”

NYT reported that NHTSA became aware of 191 crashes operating under Autopilot, Full Self-Driving (FSD), or associated features. According to the NHTSA, Tesla refers to its autopilot system as “an SAE Level 2 driving automation system designed to support and assist the driver.”

The software is designed to help drivers navigate roads using a combination of cameras and artificial intelligence to detect other vehicles, pedestrians, stop lights, and more. However, with the FSD system, Elon Musk boasted on Twitter a few days ago that Tesla vehicles with FSD will one day soon be able to “handle roads with no map data at all” and that “within a few months, FSD should be able to drive to a GPS point with zero map data.”

As of now, there is no timeline as to when the investigation will conclude.

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