Ralph Nader urges regulators to recall Tesla’s ‘manslaughter’ fully autonomous vehicles
Ralph Nader, former presidential candidate and nationally recognized consumer protection advocate, called on federal regulators to recall Tesla’s “Full Self-Driving” (FSD) driver assistance feature, calling its rollout of “one of the most dangerous and irresponsible actions of a car”. business for decades.
Nader, who first rose to prominence with the 1965 publication of the bestselling book Dangerous at any speeda highly influential critic of the US auto industry, said the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) must use its recall power to order Tesla’s FSD technology removed from every vehicle.
“I call on federal regulators to act immediately to prevent the growing number of deaths and injuries from Tesla manslaughter crashes with this technology,” Nader said in a statement released by the Center for Auto Safety.
Nader’s comments are the latest in a growing chorus of voices calling for the government to make a decision on Tesla’s FSD, which critics say pushes the boundaries of what should be available to drivers. NHTSA is currently investigating 16 crashes in which owners of Tesla vehicles using Autopilot crashed into stationary emergency vehicles, resulting in 15 injuries and one death. Most of these incidents took place after dark, with the software ignoring scene control measures including warning lights, flares, cones, and an illuminated arrow board. The probe was recently upgraded to “technical analysis”, which is the second and final phase of an investigation before a possible recall.
In his statement, Nader notes that Tesla recently reported that more than 100,000 vehicle owners are currently testing the FSD beta on public roads. (The company has approximately 3 million vehicles on the road worldwide.)
Tesla vehicles today come standard with a driver assistance feature called Autopilot. For an additional $12,000, owners can purchase the FSD option, which Tesla CEO Elon Musk has repeatedly promised will one day provide fully autonomous capabilities. But to this day, FSD remains an advanced ‘Level 2’ driver assistance system, which means the driver should remain fully engaged in driving the vehicle while in motion.
In addition to emergency vehicle crashes, NHTSA has also compiled a list of Special Accident Investigations (SCI) in which the agency collects data beyond what local authorities and insurance companies typically collect at the scene. The agency also reviews crashes involving advanced driver assistance systems, like Tesla’s Autopilot, and automated driving systems.
As of July 26, there were 48 crashes on the agency’s SCI list, 39 of which involved Tesla vehicles using Autopilot. Nineteen people, including drivers, passengers, pedestrians, other drivers and motorcyclists, were killed in these Tesla crashes.
Last week, California’s DMV accused Tesla of falsely advertising its Autopilot and FSD features, alleging the company made “false or misleading” statements about its vehicles’ self-driving capabilities. The DMV’s action could result in the suspension of Tesla’s licenses to produce and sell cars in California, but the agency may not go that far.
Tesla has faced similar complaints in the past. In 2016, the German government asked the company to stop using the term “autopilot” for fear of suggesting that its vehicles are fully autonomous. Last year, Senators Ed Markey (D-MA) and Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) asked the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to investigate how Tesla advertises its Autopilot and FSD system, saying that the automaker “has overestimated the capabilities of its vehicles,” which could “pose a threat to motorists and other road users.”
Now Nader lends his expertise and reputation to the fight. The consumer protection advocate said NHTSA must act before anyone is killed.
“This nation shouldn’t allow this flawed software that Tesla himself says can do the ‘wrong thing at the worst time’ on the same streets where kids go to school,” he said. “Together, we must send an urgent message to loss-conscious regulators that Americans should not be test dummies for a powerful, high-profile corporation and its famous CEO. No one is above the law. on manslaughter.”