US asks Tesla about Musk tweet on 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 ) about a tweet Chief Executive Elon Musk wrote about a driver monitoring feature.

A tweet on Dec. 31[ads1] suggested that drivers with more than 10,000 miles using Tesla’s “Full Self-Driving” (FSD) software system should be able to disable “rattnas,” a warning that asks drivers to hold the wheel to confirm they are paying attention . Musk replied: “Agreed, update coming in January.”

NHTSA on Monday said 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 confirmed that the questions about Musk’s tweet are related to its ongoing defect investigation into 830,000 Tesla vehicles with the Autopilot driver assistance system and involve crashes with parked emergency vehicles.

NHTSA is evaluating whether Tesla vehicles adequately ensure that drivers are alert, and previously cited evidence suggested that in most crashes under review, drivers had complied 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 the vehicles to change lanes and park autonomously. It complements the standard “Autopilot” function, which enables cars to steer, accelerate and brake within their lane 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 in which advanced driver assistance systems are suspected to have been in use. Since 2016, NHTSA has opened more than three dozen Tesla special crash investigations where advanced driver assistance systems such as Autopilot were suspected of being used with 19 crash deaths reported.

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 over the vehicle’s “Passenger Play” feature due to concerns about driver distraction.

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

Reporting by David Shepardson Editing by Nick Zieminski

Our standards: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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