Tesla reportedly asked highway safety officials to redact information about whether driver-assistance software was in use during crashes: According to a report in The New Yorker regarding an investigation into Elon Musk’s connections to the US government, Tesla instructed the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to withhold information on whether driver-assistance software was present in vehicles involved in accidents.
According to a statement from the NHTSA, “Tesla requested redaction of fields of the crash report based on a claim that those fields contained confidential business information.” The NHTSA’s power to disclose what the corporations referred to as confidential information is expressly limited by the Vehicle Safety Act. Unless/until NHTSA engages in a judicial process to challenge the claim, NHTSA is required by law to treat any company’s claim of confidentiality as confidential after it has been made.
Tesla’s Autopilot and Full Self-Driving systems have endured a number of controversies over the years, despite Musk’s repeated claims that self-driving Teslas are imminent.
All Tesla vehicles come standard with Autopilot, which is designed to assist drivers on highways. Full Self-Driving is an add-on that costs $15,000 a year and is currently in beta. According to Tesla, Full Self-Driving is more advanced and enables vehicles to park, change lanes, and recognize lights and stop signs. The firm also states that when both features are in operation, “a fully attentive driver” should be in control of the vehicle.
The Washington Post reported in June that since 2019, there have been 736 crashes and 17 fatalities involving Teslas operating in Autopilot mode.
Despite statistics showing that Tesla cars were involved in “a disproportionate number of crashes involving emergency vehicles,” former NHTSA deputy administrator Steven Cliff told The New Yorker that the agency hadn’t yet determined whether human drivers or Tesla’s software were to blame.
In June 2021, the NHTSA declared that it was looking into Tesla’s Autopilot’s involvement in 30 accidents that resulted in 10 fatalities between 2016 and 2021.
After detecting 11 accidents involving Teslas colliding with automobiles at first-responder locations in 2018, the agency opened another probe into the feature two months later. Seven of the 11 crashes that were noted caused injuries, while one caused a fatality.
At the time, the NHTSA announced that their investigation would cover all Tesla models X, Y, S, and 3 produced between 2014 and 2021, or around 765,000 automobiles. The EPA escalated the investigation in June 2022, announcing that it will now check into data from 830,000 Tesla vehicles.
Additionally, the DOJ has been conducting a criminal investigation, and Tesla confirmed in February that the DOJ had made a request for records pertaining to the Autopilot and Full Self-Driving technologies.
The New Yorker was informed by an NHTSA official that “multiple investigations remain open.”