Auto Safety Regulator Investigating Tesla Recall of Autopilot

The federal government’s main auto safety agency said on Friday that it was investigating Tesla’s recall of its Autopilot driver-assistance system because regulators were concerned that the company had not done enough to ensure that drivers remained attentive while using the technology.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said in documents posted on its website that it was looking into Tesla’s recall in December of two million vehicles, which covered nearly all of the cars the company had manufactured in the United States since 2012. The safety agency said it had concerns about crashes that took place after the recall and results from preliminary tests of recalled vehicles.

The agency also published an analysis that found that there had been at least 29 fatal accidents involving Autopilot and a more advanced system that Tesla calls Full Self-Driving from January 2018 to August 2023. In 13 of those fatal accidents, the fronts of Teslas hit objects or people in their path.

The investigation of Tesla’s recall and the new data about crashes adds to a list of headaches for Tesla, the dominant electric-vehicle maker in the United States. The company’s sales in the first three months of the year fell more than 8 percent from a year earlier, the first such drop since the early days of the coronavirus pandemic.

Tesla announced in December that it would recall its Autopilot software after an investigation by the auto safety agency found that the carmaker hadn’t put in place enough safeguards to make sure the system, which can accelerate, brake and control cars in other ways, was used safely by drivers who were supposed to be ready at any moment to retake control of their cars using Autopilot.

In its analysis of Tesla crash data, the safety agency found that when the company’s cameras, sensors and software did not spot obstacles in the car’s path and drivers did not compensate for that failure quickly enough the consequences were often catastrophic.

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