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NTSB: Tesla Uses Customers As Guinea Pigs For Autopilot Tech

The National Transport Safety Board has slammed Tesla for using customers to beta test its automated driving technology before its official approval.

CNBC reports that the NTSB called on the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to tighten regulation on self-driving technology, which could affect how Tesla releases new features to its customers, the report notes.

“The NTSB recognizes NHTSA’s efforts to develop a framework for ADS [automated driving system] safety,” NTSB board chairman Robert L. Sumwalt wrote in a letter to the sister agency. “However, we believe that the Department of Transportation (DOT) and NHTSA must act first to develop a strong safety foundation that will support the framework envisioned for automated vehicles (AVs) of the future. The foundation should include sensible safeguards, protocols, and minimum performance standards to ensure the safety of motorists and other vulnerable road users.”

Sumwalt then noted Tesla’s Autopilot system, which, he said, the company was testing without sufficient oversight.

“Tesla recently released a beta version of its Level 2 Autopilot system, described as having full self-driving capability. By releasing the system, Tesla is testing on public roads a highly automated AV technology but with limited oversight or reporting requirements,” the executive wrote. “NHTSA’s hands-off approach to oversight of AV testing poses a potential risk to motorists and other road users.”

This was made possible by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, which has no specific requirement for autonomous driving systems, thus giving carmakers the opportunity to develop and test such systems wherever and however they like.

Tesla’s Autopilot system has made headlines more than once because of crashes, with at least one case with a fatal end. The company has argued that despite its name, the Autopilot needed a driver at the wheel when it was on, with hands on the wheel. Yet, for marketing purposes, the company has advertised its system as completely autonomous.

By Charles Kennedy for Oilprice.com

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