The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) is calling on its sister agency to implement stricter regulations for automated vehicle technology. In one letter it was sent to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) in early February (via CNBC), the NTSB says the regulator “must act” to “develop a solid foundation for safety.” What’s remarkable about the document is that NTSB Chairman Robert Sumwalt frequently quotes Tesla in a negative light in support of his department’s suggestions. The automaker is referenced 16 times across the letter’s 15 pages.
For example, in one section, Sumwalt writes about NHTSA’s “continued failure” to implement regulations that would prevent driver assistance systems like Autopilot from operating. functioning beyond their intended use. “Because NHTSA has no requirements in place, manufacturers can operate and test vehicles virtually anywhere, even if the location exceeds the limits of the AV control system,” writes Sumwalt. “For example, Tesla recently released a beta of its Level 2 autopilot system, described as having full autonomous driving capability. By launching the system, Tesla is testing highly automated audiovisual technology on public roads but with limited monitoring or reporting requirements. “
This is not the first time that the NTSB has criticized both Tesla and its sister agency. When he held a audience last year on fatal accident of 2018 who killed Apple developer Walter Haung, Sumwalt expressed frustration with both NHTSA and Tesla. “Government regulators have provided limited oversight,” he said of the former while criticizing the automaker for not responding to its recommendations. But there’s not much the agency can do outside of making recommendations. As part of its role of investigating traffic accidents, it does not have the power to regulate or even apply the safety measures it suggests. This responsibility rests with NHTSA. Under the Trump administration, the agency mainly left state regulators to decide how to approach the issue of automated vehicle technologies.