Tesla is facing criticism from U.S. federal and state regulators over the safety and functionality of its Autopilot advanced driver-assistance system. On Thursday, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) asked Tesla to answer questions about its cockpit cameras as part of an investigation into 830,000 Tesla vehicles that include Autopilot.
Tesla says the cabin camera has a driver monitoring system built into it, which can be used to determine if drivers are not paying attention and send them a noise alert to remind them to keep their eyes on the road when Autopilot starts. Tesla rolled out a camera-based driver monitoring system last May after relying on a system that could detect whether a driver’s hands were on the steering wheel.
The NHTSA investigation also asked for information on how Tesla produced its quarterly safety report, which a recent report from the Virginia Transportation Research Council found was misleading.
Separately, in late July, the California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) accused Tesla of making false claims about its Autopilot and “Full Self-Driving (FSD)” systems. FSD is another more advanced ADAS system, and drivers will pay an additional $12,000 for self-driving features like Summon for parking or Navigate for Autopilot.
Tesla responded Thursday by asking the California DMV for a hearing to defend its claim that the company misled potential customers. Under the DMV’s procedures for handling allegations, Tesla has the right to a hearing to defend itself. According to a DMV spokesman, this could lead to settlement discussions between the DMV and Tesla, after which the DMV will hold a hearing in the Office of Administrative Hearings.
Tesla’s popularity has increased because NHTSA is investigating 16 crashes in which some Tesla owners may have used Autopilot and crashed into stationary emergency vehicles. The crashes resulted in 15 injuries and one fatality.
NHTSA’s nine-page letter gives Tesla until Sept. 19 to respond to various demands — such as the role Tesla’s cockpit cameras play in mandating driver participation and detailing how automakers design and engineer mandatory driving systems for employee participation and attention.
NHTSA also asked Tesla to identify every lawsuit involving Tesla in the U.S. — in which one party said a motor vehicle crash was related to Autopilot — and to describe the process and methodology of Tesla’s vehicle safety reporting.
Tesla has until October 12 to send detailed information about each crashed vehicle in CAN logs or video/data clips, according to a separate checklist provided by NHTSA. The information NHTSA is looking for includes how long Autopilot was used, the road grade at the time of the impact, and data on the behavior of the systems and drivers before the impact.