June 16, 2024

NHTSA increases scrutiny of Tesla Autopilot, requests additional data

Tesla is approaching a July 1 deadline to provide US regulators with details regarding its largest-ever recall due to incidents of drivers crashing while using the Autopilot system.

In a letter published on its website on Tuesday, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is questioning Tesla about the usage statistics of its driver-assistance system, as well as the frequency of warnings given to drivers to keep their hands on the wheel before and after the December recall. Following 20 additional crashes post-recall, the agency initiated an inquiry last month to determine whether Tesla’s software update effectively prevents misuse.

Tesla has yet to respond to the request for comment. Failure to comply with NHTSA’s inquiries could result in penalties of up to $27,168 per violation per day, with a maximum fine exceeding $135 million, according to the letter.

This information request represents the latest development in NHTSA’s examination of Autopilot, which began in August 2021 when the agency launched a defect investigation prompted by Teslas colliding with emergency vehicles. During the closure of that investigation and the commencement of the recall inquiry, NHTSA identified deficiencies in Tesla’s driver engagement methods, highlighting a significant safety disparity between drivers’ expectations and Autopilot’s actual capabilities.

NHTSA has initiated over 50 special crash investigations involving Tesla vehicles potentially linked to Autopilot, with the pace of probes increasing under the current administration.

Regulatory scrutiny of Tesla’s driving systems extends beyond NHTSA, as the company revealed in January 2023 that it had received document requests from the Justice Department regarding Autopilot. Reports also emerged that the Securities and Exchange Commission was investigating CEO Elon Musk’s involvement in shaping Tesla’s self-driving assertions.


1. What is the deadline for Tesla to furnish US regulators with information about its largest-ever recall?

The deadline is July 1.

2. How much could Tesla be fined if it fails to promptly and fully respond to NHTSA’s inquiries?

Tesla faces penalties of up to $27,168 per violation per day, with a maximum fine exceeding $135 million.


The ongoing scrutiny of Tesla’s Autopilot system highlights the importance of maintaining driver engagement and ensuring the safety of autonomous driving features. With regulatory inquiries intensifying, Tesla faces significant challenges in addressing concerns surrounding the use of its driver-assistance technology.

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