The interior of a Tesla Model S is shown in autopilot mode in San Francisco, California, U.S., April 7, 2016.
Alexandria Sage | Reuters
As part of its investigation into Tesla Autopilot safety issues, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration on Monday requested data from 12 other big automakers about their driver assistance systems.
The agency plans a comparative analysis between the systems Tesla and its competitors offer, as well as the practices they each used to develop, test, and track the safety of their driver assistance packages. If NHTSA determines any vehicle (or component or system) has a flawed design or safety defect, the agency has the power to mandate recalls.
According to public records, NHTSA’s Office of Defects Investigation has now queried BMW, Ford, GM, Honda, Hyundai, Kia, Mercedes-Benz, Nissan, Stellantis, Subaru, Toyota and Volkswagen as part of its Tesla Autopilot probe.
Some of these brands are primary Tesla competitors with popular models in the growing battery electric segment of the automotive market, especially Kia and Volkswagen in Europe.
Tesla CEO Elon Musk has consistently touted Autopilot as technology that makes his company’s electric cars far less likely to be involved in an accident than others.
In April, he wrote on Twitter: “Tesla with Autopilot engaged now approaching 10 times lower chance of accident than average vehicle.”
Now, the feds will compare Tesla’s entire approach and Autopilot design to other automakers’ practices and driver assistance systems.
Results of this investigation could lead not only to a software recall for Tesla Autopilot, but also to a broader regulatory crack-down on automakers and the way they must develop and track the use of automated driving features like traffic-aware cruise control or collision avoidance.
As CNBC previously reported, NHTSA originally initiated its probe of Tesla Autopilot after a series of crashes between Tesla vehicles and first responder vehicles left 17 people injured and 1 person dead. It recently added another collision to the list that involved a Tesla that veered off the road in Orlando, and narrowly missed hitting a police officer who was assisting another motorist on the side of the road.