Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg has raised concerns about Tesla’s marketing of its partially automated driving system, Autopilot. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), which falls under Buttigieg’s department, is currently investigating a series of crashes involving Tesla vehicles operating on Autopilot, resulting in at least 14 fatalities. The NHTSA has dispatched investigative teams to more than 30 incidents since 2016, where Teslas using Autopilot or the more advanced Full Self-Driving system have been involved in collisions with pedestrians, motorcyclists, and parked emergency vehicles.
Autopilot’s Misleading Label:
Buttigieg asserts that the term “Autopilot” is misleading since Tesla’s cars cannot drive themselves, and drivers are required to maintain hands on the wheel and eyes on the road at all times. He underscores the accountability of Tesla and other companies in complying with federal safety standards.
Unproven Self-Driving Technology:
While acknowledging the potential of self-driving vehicles to reduce road fatalities, Buttigieg emphasizes that the technology has yet to be proven fully. The NHTSA has also expressed concerns about Tesla’s Full Self-Driving system, resulting in the recall of nearly 363,000 vehicles due to violations of traffic laws.
Ongoing Investigations and Safety Monitoring:
Buttigieg refrains from commenting on specific investigations but emphasizes that regulatory bodies and vehicle safety perspectives are diligently monitoring the situation. He reiterates that no currently available vehicle is capable of driving itself, and drivers must remain attentive.
Justice Department Inquiry and EV Revolution:
In addition to the NHTSA investigation, the Justice Department has requested documents from Tesla pertaining to its Autopilot and Full Self-Driving systems. Buttigieg highlights the Biden administration’s commitment to accelerating the adoption of electric vehicles (EVs) in the United States to achieve climate goals and create domestic employment opportunities. He stresses the importance of tax credits and the development of a robust charging infrastructure to facilitate widespread EV usage.
Confidence in the EV Revolution:
Buttigieg expresses confidence in the success of the EV revolution, noting that all states, regardless of political affiliation, have formulated plans to leverage funding from climate and infrastructure laws to support EV adoption. He emphasizes the need for the United States to lead the global automotive industry transformation, citing both economic and environmental benefits.
Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg’s concerns regarding Tesla’s Autopilot system and its marketing have prompted an investigation by the NHTSA. With safety and compliance as key priorities, regulatory bodies and vehicle safety perspectives continue to closely monitor the situation. Meanwhile, the Biden administration remains committed to propelling the EV revolution forward, with a focus on tax incentives and the establishment of a comprehensive charging infrastructure. Buttigieg’s optimism stems from the collective efforts of all states, united in their plans to embrace EVs and reap the associated benefits.