Tesla claims its self-driving features are entirely safe. But some senators are skeptical.
Rohan Patel, senior director of Public Policy at Tesla, defended the safety of the company's Full Self-Driving and Autopilot features in a letter on March 4, first reported by Reuters. In the letter to Sens. Richard Blumenthal and Ed Markey, Patel claimed that the features give its users the capability to drive "to drive safer than the average driver in the U.S.," as they require constant attention from the driver.
In a previous joint letter to Tesla on Feb. 8, the senators wrote that Tesla "repeatedly releases software without fully considering its risks and implications" for drivers. In a statement to Reuters, the senators said Patel's letter is "just more evasion and deflection from Tesla" as the company looks to "carry on with business as usual."
Last April, the duo called on the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to take “corrective actions” against Tesla following a fatal accident in which a Tesla Model S crashed and killed two people.
Tesla's self-driving features have not rolled out without incident. The EV maker recalled close to 54,000 Model S, Model X, Model Y and Model 3 sedans for a software update that allowed Full Self-Driving users to do rolling stops — passing through stop signs without coming to a complete halt — in late January. The recall was one of nearly a dozen that the company has had to release in the past five months as the NHTSA increases scrutiny of Tesla’s releases.
“[Tesla] seem[s] to like to ask for forgiveness rather than permission a lot,” said Michael Brooks, acting executive director for The Center for Auto Safety, in a February interview with Protocol.
Update, 3/9/22 at 6:05 p.m. ET: This story has been corrected to reflect the circumstances of the Tesla Model S accident.