Tesla has been under investigation over the safety of the company’s much touted “Full Self Driving” feature in its vehicles which are not, in fact, fully self-driving.

One of Elon Musk’s quite a few tweets is now a part of an ongoing federal investigation into the security of Tesla’s automated driver-assistant system. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration requested extra info from Tesla a few December 31 publish from Musk, as first reported by the Associated Press and confirmed by NHTSA in an e mail to Gizmodo.

In that aforementioned, New Year’s Eve publish, Musk insinuated that sure Tesla drivers don’t want reminders to maintain their palms on the steering wheel, and claimed the corporate was engaged on a software program replace to curtail such alerts.

Screenshot of tweets

The NHTSA has been probing Tesla over its Autopilot software program since 2021. Last summer time, the federal watchdog introduced an enormous growth of that investigation, after figuring out no less than 16 situations of Tesla automobiles crashing into first responder autos. And one other federal regulator, the U.S. National Transportation Safety Board, has been investigating Tesla over particular person crashes and different incidents for years.

Yet amid the federal scrutiny, Tesla started widespread beta testing of its “Full Self-Driving” mode in September 2021. Full Self-Driving is supposed to be a extra superior model of Autopilot, although continues to be not—because the title would possibly suggest—truly totally self-driving. Both Autopilot and FSD require a human driver to stay alert on the steering wheel always, based on the company’s website.

But the vast majority of drivers utilizing the options reported feeling “comfortable” treating the autos as autonomous, and totally self-driving, based on a 2022 survey from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. Perhaps that perspective partially explains why Tesla reported extra driver-assisted associated crashes than another carmaker in 2022.

This previous October, the Justice Department launched a prison probe into Tesla over its autonomous driver help know-how and the way in which the corporate has marketed it, including to the pile of federal investigations. And in December, California handed a legislation banning the “Full Self-Driving” label that can go into impact this yr.

On high of Tesla’s deceptive promoting, regulators have routinely famous that a part of the automaker’s issues of safety stems from an absence of driver monitoring. Competing corporations within the driver-assistance area like GM and Ford use camera-based eye-tracking to make sure driver consideration, based on a report from The Verge. Tesla, as an alternative, depends on steering wheel detection. Vehicles with FSD and Autopilot activated subject computerized reminders to drivers to thoughts their steering wheels if the automobile detects no palms are current, after a sure time period. (Nevermind that it’s scary straightforward to trick the steering wheel detection system.)

This brings us again to the Tesla CEO’s December tweet. An account consumer beneath the title @WholeMarsBlog tweeted that, “users with more than 10,000 miles on FSD Beta should be given the option to turn off the steering wheel nag,” in a publish tagging the billionaire. Musk then responded, “agreed, update coming in Jan.”

It’s not clear what Musk meant precisely by this tweet. After all, an “update” might imply that Tesla is switching over to a Ford-style digital camera monitoring system, or it might imply that the timeframe for warnings shall be adjusted, because it has been earlier than, as identified by the AP.

Yet within the instant context of @WholeMarsBlog’s preliminary tweet and use of the time period “nag,” the implication appears to be that steering wheel alerts are pointless for Tesla drivers who’ve put a sure variety of miles on their automobiles. The tweet might even be taken to imply that Tesla drivers utilizing FSD don’t must be monitored or reminded to remain attentive. Regardless of the precise which means, the tweet was worrying sufficient to be a focus for the NHTSA.

A spokesperson from the administration wrote to Gizmodo that it “is in contact with Tesla to gather additional information,” concerning the tweet. “This issue falls under NHTSA’s ongoing Autopilot investigation, and the agency generally does not comment on open investigations,” the spokesperson additional famous.

Disabling Tesla’s already skinny driver monitoring system might pose an extra security threat to different drivers on the street, Jake Fisher, an auto testing knowledgeable at Consumer Reports, instructed the Associated Press. “Using FSD beta, you’re kind of part of an experiment,” Fisher mentioned. “The problem is the other road users adjacent to you haven’t signed up to be part of that experiment.”

Tesla didn’t reply to Gizmodo’s questions or request for remark. The firm dissolved its PR division in 2020.

It’s not the primary time {that a} tweet has landed Musk in scorching water with federal regulators. In 2018, he joked that he was “considering taking Tesla private at $420,” and ended up paying a $20 million superb over it. Then, once more, in 2019 he confronted scrutiny from the Securities and Exchange Commission over posts that seemingly contradicted Tesla’s legally mandated quarterly report back to shareholders. In 2022, the SEC had questions about Musk’s Twitter-purchase-related tweets. This is all to say: the person doesn’t appear to study—or he merely can not escape the urge to publish. The social media platform, which he now owns, seems to have extra of a grip on him than any firm board or federal regulator ever has.

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