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The United States asks Tesla for information on the camera embedded in the Autopilot probe

WASHINGTON, Aug 18 (Reuters) – U.S. auto safety regulators on Thursday asked Tesla Inc (TSLA.O) to answer questions about its in-car camera meant to monitor driver awareness as part of an investigation into 830,000 Tesla vehicles that use the automaker’s advanced technologies. driver assistance system called Autopilot.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) is evaluating Autopilot’s performance after earlier identifying a dozen crashes in which Tesla vehicles struck stationary emergency vehicles.

In June, it upgraded its probe to technical analysis – a step required before it could potentially demand a recall.

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NHTSA’s nine-page letter asks Tesla to respond to questions by Oct. 12 on “the role the cabin camera plays in enforcing driver engagement/attention.”

According to Tesla, the cabin camera – a camera located above the rear view mirror – can determine driver inattention and provide audible alerts to remind the driver to keep their eyes on the road when Autopilot is engaged.

NHTSA said it was looking for information on “the impact of the cabin camera on driver engagement alert types and timing” as well as “retrievable data elements indicating its influence.”

The agency said it wanted an explanation of the “design decisions” on the application of the driver pledge, “including evidence that justifies the period during which the driver is allowed to leave the steering wheel untouched before to receive a warning”.

The regulator is examining whether Tesla vehicles adequately ensure that drivers are attentive. The agency said in June that evidence suggested drivers in most of the crashes it examined had complied with Tesla’s warning strategy, raising questions about its effectiveness.

Tesla, which has disbanded its press office, did not respond to a request for comment.

Consumer Reports said when evaluating Tesla’s driver attention camera in late 2021 “we found that it was not enough to ensure that the driver was fully attentive when driving. used autopilot and full self-driving (FSD) functions”.

The magazine said it “could block the cabin camera and the car would not issue a warning, slow the car or turn off the systems”.

In June, Consumer Reports said the company had installed an over-the-air update that issued a warning when the camera is covered while FSD is enabled, but not with autopilot.

Autopilot is intended to allow cars to steer, accelerate and brake automatically within their lane, while FSD allows vehicles to obey traffic lights and change lanes.

In addition to the defect investigation, NHTSA has opened 38 special investigations since 2016 into crashes involving Tesla vehicles and where Autopilot or other advanced systems were suspected of being used. A total of 19 deaths have been reported in these Tesla-related investigations.

Separately, California Public Transportation accused Tesla of falsely advertising the features as providing autonomous vehicle control.

Tesla said in notices filed with the state that were released Thursday that it was seeking a hearing into the complaints and intended to present a defense. Read more

The California Department of Motor Vehicles is seeking solutions that could include suspending Tesla’s license to sell vehicles in the state and requiring the company to provide restitution to drivers.

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Reporting by David Shepardson and Hyunjoo Jin; Editing by Rosalba O’Brien

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