NTSB cites Tesla to make the case for stricter autonomous driving regulation

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The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) is calling on its sister agency to implement stricter regulations regarding automated vehicle technology. In a letter she sent to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) in early February (via CNBC), the NTSB says the regulator “must act” to “develop a strong safety foundation.” What is striking about the document is that NTSB chairman Robert Sumwalt regularly quotes Tesla negatively to support his department’s suggestions. The automaker is referenced 16 times across the 15 pages of the letter.

For example, in one section, Sumwalt writes of NHTSA’s “continued failure” to implement regulations that would prevent driver assistance systems such as Autopilot from working beyond their intended purpose. “Because NHTSA has no requirements, manufacturers can operate and test vehicles virtually anywhere, even if the location exceeds the limitations of the AV control system,” Sumwalt writes. For example, Tesla recently released a beta version of its Level 2 Autopilot system, which is described as being fully self-driving. By releasing the system, Tesla is testing highly automated AV technology on public roads, but with limited monitoring or reporting requirements. “

This isn’t the first time the NTSB has criticized both Tesla and its sister agency. When it held a hearing last year about the 2018 deadly crash that killed Apple developer Walter Haung, Sumwalt expressed frustration with both the NHTSA and Tesla. “Government regulators have barely supervised,” he said of the former, shooting the automaker for failing to respond to his recommendations. But there is little the agency can do other than make recommendations. As part of its role in investigating road accidents, it has no authority to regulate or even enforce the safety measures it suggests. That responsibility rests with the NHTSA. Under the Trump administration, the agency has largely let state regulators decide how to approach the issue of automated vehicle technologies.

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This story originally appeared on Engadget.

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