The U.S. auto safety regulator on Thursday said it was closely watching Tesla Inc’s release of a software version intended to allow its cars to drive themselves, saying it stood ready to protect the public against safety risks.
Tesla on Tuesday night released a beta, or test version, of what it calls a “Full Self Driving” software upgrade to an undisclosed number of “expert, careful” drivers. The release prompted online posts by excited recipients who shared video snippets of their car driving supposedly autonomously on city streets at night.
During a Tesla earnings call on Wednesday, Chief Executive Elon Musk said the latest upgrade was planned to be widely released by the end of this year, with the system becoming more robust as it collected more data.
“NHTSA has been briefed on Tesla’s new feature, which represents an expansion of its existing driver assistance system. The agency will monitor the new technology closely and will not hesitate to take action to protect (the) public against unreasonable risks to safety,” the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said in a statement.
NHTSA in July said its special crash investigation team had “looked into 19 crashes involving Tesla vehicles where it was believed some form of advanced driver assistance system was engaged at the time of the incident.”