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NHTSA Demands Explanation From Tesla Over Autopilot Safety

The US National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has issued a special order to Tesla, demanding an explanation for a recent software change in its Autopilot driver assistance system. 

According to documents released on Tuesday, Tesla’s Autopilot system allows drivers to keep their hands off the wheel, potentially leading to increased driver inattention and a higher risk of collisions.

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The NHTSA’s letter to Tesla expressed concern about the relaxation of controls in the Autopilot system and its potential impact on driver supervision. 

“The resulting relaxation of controls…could lead to greater drive inattention and failure of the driver to properly supervise Autopilot,” said in the letter.

The order requires Tesla to provide information about when the software update was introduced, the number of affected vehicles, and the reason for implementing the change, 

It also demands incidents involving collisions or near-misses with vehicles equipped with the updated software.

NHTSA also expressed concerns that more drivers might attempt to activate the feature now as it is known to the public.

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In April this year, Tesla’s chief executive Elon Musk said the company is gradually reducing the steering wheel nag -alerts aimed at ensuring drivers using Tesla’s “Full Self-Driving” (FSD) system to keep their hands on the wheel.

The investigation comes amid an ongoing push by various automakers, including Tesla, to develop technology that allows vehicles to operate with limited human intervention. 

According to ITnews, Tesla will face its first trial involving Autopilot fatality in a California state court in mid-September.

It contains allegations that the Autopilot system caused Model 3 to suddenly veer off a highway east of Los Angeles at 65 miles per hour (104 km/h), hit a tree and burst into flames, killing the owner of the vehicle.

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