US questions Tesla over Musk tweet about driver monitoring feature

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

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

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

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

The NHTSA is examining whether Tesla vehicles are adequately ensuring drivers pay attention, and has previously said evidence suggests drivers in most crashes examined complied with Tesla’s warning policy which seeks to grab the driver’s attention, raising questions about its effectiveness.

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

Last month, NHTSA said it opened two new special investigations into crashes involving Tesla vehicles where advanced driver assistance systems are believed to have been used. Since 2016, NHTSA has opened more than three dozen special investigations into Tesla crashes where advanced driver assistance systems such as Autopilot were suspected of being used with 19 reported crash fatalities.

In December 2021, NHTSA opened an investigation into Tesla’s decision to allow passengers to play games on the front center touchscreen covering 580,000 vehicles on the vehicle’s “Passenger Play” due to distraction concerns. of the driver.

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

Reporting by David Shepardson Editing by Nick Zieminski

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