The US highway safety watchdog asked 12 automakers on September 14 to provide data on their driver assistance systems as part of a preliminary investigation of Tesla, whose cars were involved in several accidents with first responder vehicles.
The National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration (NHTSA) seeks to conduct a benchmark analysis of vehicles whose models have the ability, under certain circumstances, to automatically control both the steering and the breaking or acceleration.
NHTSA sent letters, dated September 13 and seen by AFP, to BMW, Ford, General Motors, Honda, Hyundai, Kia, Mercedes-Benz, Nissan, Stellantis, Subaru, Toyota and Volkswagen.
The agency began its probe in August after documenting 11 Tesla accidents since early 2018 involving a car from the company founded by tech titan Elon Musk and emergency vehicles including police cruisers.
The incidents included one fatal crash and seven that resulted in injuries to a total of 17 people, according to the NHTSA.
In each case a Tesla driving assistance system – either its Autopilot system that comes standard on newer models or a simple cruise control function – was engaged.
A 12th accident has subsequently been included in the NHTSA investigation, which involves the US brand’s Model Y, X, S and 3, released between 2014 and 2021.
Safety officials are asking the dozen other automakers for details on their own driver assistance systems, including how they were developed and tested, and what methods are used to detect the presence of first responder vehicles.
Tesla’s Autopilot, already under the microscope, became the subject of controversy after its series of accidents.
The name itself is under considerable debate as no manufacturer is currently able to offer customers a fully autonomous driving vehicle.
Tesla states on its website that current Autopilot features require “active driver supervision and do not make the vehicle autonomous”.