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Tesla Recall Illustrates Gap in Safety Regulations

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) recently issued a voluntary recall for all Tesla cars equipped with the driver-assist technology known as FSD, which stands for “Full Self-Driving.” The technology is branded as a way to turn a Tesla into an autonomous vehicle, which means that it’s supposed to be able to operate itself without human intervention.

Yet, the recall was issued because the NHTSA found a significant pattern of vehicular failures in the FSD software. The report stated: “[FSD] may allow the vehicle to act unsafe around intersections, such as driving straight through an intersection while in a turn-only lane.” It also listed other problematic behaviors, such as speeding, rolling through stop signs, and running yellow traffic lights “without due caution.”

Notably, there is no similar FSD recall in the European Union, because Tesla hasn’t received the green light to offer it there. Tesla CEO Elon Musk himself summarized the difference in transatlantic car regulations: “In the U.S. things are legal by default, and in Europe they’re illegal by default.”

For example, in the U.S. if a plane manufacturer is designing a new piece of software, the company must work closely with the FAA to get the go-ahead prior to deployment. But for autos, the U.S. has basically said to carmakers, “You’re good. We trust you.”

Former NHTSA senior advisor Missy Cummings believes that autonomous vehicles should be treated with the same stringent safety requirements as commercial airliners. She said, “Because cars are on the road every day, we think of them as less complex than planes. But cars with autonomy are extremely complex. The amount of code that goes into these systems is phenomenal.”

Industry analysts believe that the dangerous driving behavior of autonomous vehicles are the direct result of the government taking a laissez-faire approach to safety regulation.

Possible Preaching Angle:

When accomplishments are exaggerated and profits are emphasized there is the potential for danger. What is claimed to help, might in fact, be harmful.

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