Washington (February 8, 2022) – After numerous reports of dangerous braking flaws in Tesla’s Autopilot and Full Self Driving systems and amid several federal safety investigations, U.S. Senators Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.) and Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), members of the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee, voiced serious concerns with the implementation of the company’s technology.
“While advanced driver assistance and automated driving systems have the potential to improve safety, they must be implemented responsibly and comply with existing traffic laws,” wrote the Senators to Tesla Co-founder and CEO Elon Musk. “When these systems do not meet these essential requirements, they put all of those who use our roads at risk of injury or death.”
In October, Tesla’s Full Self-Driving (FSD) version 10.3 update implemented a “rolling stop” feature, enabling cars to drive through stop signs at up to 5.6 miles per hour and without coming to a full stop as required by law. Last week, Tesla issued a recall for nearly 54,000 vehicles running this version of FSD or newer.
“We are deeply troubled by Tesla’s design choices that seemingly encourage unsafe driving habits,” wrote Markey and Blumenthal. “While this recall is a step towards reducing unsafe driving and crashes, it should not have been needed in the first place – Tesla should not design and implement features for its cars that do not follow the rules of the road.”
The lawmakers lambasted Tesla’s “long history of flouting basic safety standards,” which has spurred numerous National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) investigations and reviews of various FSD and Autopilot system features, including Tesla vehicles crashing into emergency responder vehicles, Tesla drivers being able to play video games while the cars were in motion, and Tesla vehicles braking without a hazard in front of it.
“These complaints and investigations paint a troubling picture: Tesla repeatedly releases software without fully considering its risks and implications, creating grave dangers for all on the roads,” stressed Markey and Blumenthal, calling on the company to answer a number of questions about its design and programming decisions.
Senators Markey and Blumenthal have for years raised concerns about the safety issues created by autonomous vehicle (AV) technology. In May 2018, the Senators queried major automakers and technology companies developing AVs on public roads about safety protocols for test-driving their vehicles. Amid a series of Tesla crashes, in August 2021 the lawmakers voiced serious concerns about Tesla’s misleading advertising and marketing of its Autopilot and Full-Self Driving (FSD) features to consumers, and called on the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to launch an investigation and take enforcement action.
The full text of today’s letter can be found here.