Tesla is not about to get a sympathetic ear from U.S. regulators as it rolls out more semi-autonomous technology. The new head of the National Transportation Safety Board, Jennifer Homendy, said The Wall Street Journal in an interview that Tesla needs to address ‘basic safety issues’ before extending features such as autopilot and full self-steering to more parts of the road. She was also not excited about upgrading Tesla beta tests on public streets.
Like other critics, the NTSB leader jeopardized Tesla’s naming schemes for its driver assistance. The Full Self Driving label is ‘misleading and irresponsible’, Homendy said, and some have ‘abused and abused’ it. Despite its name, the current FSD package allows only limited autonomy in some situations, and requires drivers to be ready to take the wheel at any moment. Tesla ultimately hopes for true autonomy to enable robotic action and other practical uses, but has not yet demonstrated such a system.
Tesla and its chief Elon Musk have long argued that Autopilot (and by extension FSD) is generally safer than full-handed operation despite concerns about accidents involving the technology. The automaker used FSD betas as a way to enhance semi-autonomous functions through use in the real world, not just the ideal conditions of a closed circuit.
Homendy’s remarks will not necessarily lead to policies intended to restrict or prohibit Tesla’s technology. However, it sets the tone for the NTSB’s approach to Tesla during the Biden administration. The agency may not be receptive to Tesla’s autonomous management strategy, especially if there is an increase in collisions.
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