German Regulators Probe Tesla’s Autopilot Feature

The Autopilot features makes Tesla’s drive tougher in Germany.

German newspaper Bild am Sonntag reported on Sunday, February 20 that American automaker Tesla is being probed by German regulators over its Autopilot feature.

The Autopilot

Tesla’s automated lane changing system, the Autopilot. The driver assistance system was introduced to provide safety and convenience to customers.

The Autopilot is an enhanced set of features that comes with all new Tesla cars, and if unavailable can be purchased separately. It can help match the speed of one’s cars to that of surrounding traffic and also assist in changing lanes. The Full Self-Driving Capability feature comes with a more elaborate set of functions, including lane assist, parallel parking, and traffic stop sign control.

Germany probes Tesla autopilot

German authorities are investigating Tesla’s Autopilot feature and associated security risks.

A German Probe

A spokesperson for the German road safety authority the Kraftfahrt Bundesamt (KBA) claimed that the officials are in touch with the Netherlands’ vehicle agency, which is responsible for approving Tesla cars in Europe. They are investigating the matter to check whether this feature is in compliance with European road laws.

Across Europe, the Autopilot feature is provided with limited features as the laws surrounding them are still unclear.

A KBA spokesperson informed the newspaper that, “The KBA has initiated an investigation into an electronic lane change function in the Tesla autopilot. This function, which the U.S. automaker offers as an accessory in some of its models, may not be permitted in Europe.”

Last year, the KBA launched an investigation to check for safety risks of the touchscreen in the center console of various Tesla models.

Meanwhile, Tesla has been battling local hurdles as it tries to set up its Gigafactory in Berlin. Although the plant has been in development for over two years, local opposition has delayed its operations. Environmental groups had opposed the plant set up as the factory is slated to consume large amounts of water, which can affect local supply.

Tesla Accidents & The NHTSA

In August 2021, the U.S. road safety authority, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) started an investigation after identifying nearly 11 crashes involving Teslas since January 2018.

The NHTSA probe took into account 765,000 U.S. vehicles with Autopilot delivered by the automaker since 2014.

THE NHTSA mentioned that it had a report of over 17 injuries and even one death in 2019, which involved a Tesla Model 3 that crashed into a parked fire truck in Indiana. The agency mentioned that most of the accidents took place after dark and that they will study technologies “used to monitor, assist, and enforce the driver’s engagement” while using the Autopilot.

A preliminary investigation is done before it is upgraded to an engineering analysis, depending on the severity of the issue.

The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) in the U.S. has been critical of the lack of safety in Tesla’s Autopilot as it has been found that the feature was engaged in three fatal crashes from 2016.

Tesla issued close to 10 recalls from October 2021, partly due to pressure from the NHTSA.

Earlier, NHTSA had conducted a similar investigation in 2017. However, it closed the probe without recommending any actions or recall.

Recently, in December 2021, the regulatory body opened an investigation into the 2017-2022 Tesla Model 3, S, X, and Y vehicles over its Passenger Play feature. The agency believes that it can be dangerous and increase the risk of a crash in case of a distracted driver.  Later, Tesla informed the NHTSA that it will block people from playing video games while the vehicle is in motion via software update.

Investigations often take a year or more to be complete, after which companies are usually directed to rectify faults with the hardware or software, if not forced to recall defective vehicles.

The electric automaker has mentioned that it is cooperating with all concerned authorities. However, early this year, Elon Musk had accused the US government of repeatedly targeting him and companies he is associated with for being an outspoken critic of the government. 

Christy Gren
Christy Gren is an Industry Specialist Reporter at Industry Leaders Magazine she enjoys writing about Unicorns, Silicon Valley, Startups, Business Leaders and Innovators. Her articles provide an insight about the Power Players in the field of Technology, Auto, Manufacturing, and F&B.

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