U.S. has ‘real concern’ about Tesla Autopilot driver interaction

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U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg said Tuesday there are concerns about the interaction between Tesla’s advanced driver assistance system Autopilot and drivers that is the subject of an ongoing government investigation. “There is a real concern that’s not limited to the technology itself but the interaction between the technology and the driver,” Buttigieg told reporters when asked about the Tesla Autopilot probe.

Buttigieg said advanced driver assistance systems can benefit drivers. “The question is not are they absolutely free of problems or 1000% foolproof,” Buttigieg said. “The question is, how can we be sure that they will lead to a better set of safety outcomes … This technology has a lot of promise. We just have to make sure it unfolds in a responsible fashion.”

Tesla did not respond to a request for comment. In January, Acting NHTSA Administrator Ann Carlson said the agency was “working really fast” on the Tesla Autopilot probe. In June 2022, NHTSA upgraded to an engineering analysis its defect probe into 830,000 Tesla vehicles with Autopilot and involving crashes with parked emergency vehicles.

NHTSA has said evidence suggested drivers in most crashes under review had complied with Tesla’s alert strategy that seeks to compel driver attention, raising questions about its effectiveness.

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