Jennifer Homendy, chair of the National Transportation Safety Board, told the Wall Street Journal that Tesla should address “basic safety issues” before the carmaker expands its so-called “full self-driving” (FSD) mode.
Tesla CEO Elon Musk said earlier this month that the company was aiming for a wider release of FSD by the end of September, making a “public beta button” available to more Tesla customers. As the WSJ reports, an upgrade to the software— which was designed primarily for driving on highways— is expected, in order to make the vehicles ready for driving on city streets.
Homendy had harsh words for Tesla’s use of the term “full self-driving,” which she called “misleading and irresponsible,” adding that Tesla “has clearly misled numerous people to misuse and abuse technology.” The NTSB can conduct investigations and make recommendations, but has no enforcement authority.
According to documents obtained by legal transparency group PlainSite in May, Tesla’s director of Autopilot software had told the California Department of Motor Vehicles that Musk overstated the capabilities of the company’s advanced driver assist system, a precursor to FSD.
In February 2020, the NTSB found Tesla’s Autopilot driver assistance system was one of the possible causes in a fatal 2018 crash, stating that the driver, who was playing a mobile game while using Autopilot, was overly confident in Autopilot’s capabilities.
The NTSB has said Tesla ignored its 2017 safety recommendations about Autopilot. The agency told Tesla and five other automakers they should add safeguards to advanced driver assistance systems so that it’s more difficult to misuse them. It also recommended the automakers limit where and when such driver assistance systems can be used. Tesla was the only carmaker that did not officially respond to the NTSB recommendations, although it did increase the frequency of alerts if a driver takes their hands off the steering wheel when using Autopilot.
Tesla did not respond to an email seeking comment on Sunday; the company dissolved its press office and typically doesn’t respond to media inquiries.