Tesla must tell NHTSA how Autopilot sees emergency vehicles

Tesla's Autopilot system is good at keeping pace with moving traffic, but it keeps crashing into emergency responders parked by the side of the road. The NHTSA wants to know why.

Enlarge / Tesla’s Autopilot system is good at keeping pace with moving traffic, but it keeps crashing into emergency responders parked by the side of the road. The NHTSA wants to know why. (credit: Tesla)

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration investigation into Tesla’s Autopilot driver assistance system continues apace. The Associated Press reports that on Tuesday, the NHTSA sent Tesla a letter requesting further information following 12 incidents of Autopilot-enabled Teslas crashing into emergency vehicles parked by the side of the road. In total, 17 people have been injured, and one has died.

The NHTSA sent Tesla the 11-page letter asking for detailed information on how Autopilot recognizes and reacts to emergency vehicles. The company must respond by October 22 unless it asks for an extension, and the AP says Tesla could be fined $114 million if it does not cooperate.

Specifically, the agency wants to know how the system detects “a crash scene, including flashing lights, road flares, reflectorized vests worn by responders, and vehicles parked on the road.” Additionally, Tesla must tell NHTSA how Autopilot works in low-light conditions and what happens if the system detects an emergency.

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