If you buy something from a link, they may make a commission. Our ethics statement can be found here.
"Full-Self Driving" (FSD) does not offer what it claims to do.
A quick online search shows videos of FSD-enabled cars crashing into parked cars, and slowing down on a highway for no apparent reason, even though Musk claims the software is a step towards fully self-driving cars. More than a few people have said that FSD is a menace to traffic safety.
If you look for similar videos, you will find nothing. It's not because San Francisco is better for navigation than San Sebastian, but because there aren't any videos from Europe.
What's the reason? There isn't approval for public use.
The European Union does not allow the deployment of FSD unless regulators give the go-ahead. To get approval, the company needs to show that cars with it are as safe as those without it. It hasn't yet.
Tesla cannot deploy FSD anywhere in the European Union unless it first obtains a green light from regulators
American car regulators don't require any kind of safety approval for new car models or technology. Car companies self-certify that their vehicles comply with federal guidelines. The safety of everyone who walks, bikes, or drives is critical to the future of the car.
Even though it may be dangerous, the auto industry can legally deploy any advanced driver assist system they like. If the NHTSA observes a pattern of dangerous problems, it can launch an investigation, which could lead to a recall. Cars that are being investigated can continue to drive on American roads.
Musk said in Berlin that in the US and Europe things are legal by default.
The automation of cars is making US regulators rethink their approach. A federal official, who was not authorized to speak publicly, said that NHTSA is currently exploring how it could structure a preapproval process for autonomous technologies, a move that could force US carmakers to ask permission to deploy a new technology.
Is it wise to wait until after a disaster to protect Americans from dangerous vehicles?
16 Americans were killed for every 100 million miles driven in 1929, more than 10 times the rate today.
The federal government paid little attention to car safety until after the publication of Unsafe at Any Speed. The first federal rules for car safety were enacted in 1970.
Even though federal officials weighed various automotive regulatory frameworks, they never considered forcing carmakers to get pre approval for a new vehicle model.
Regulators never seriously considered forcing carmakers to obtain preapproval
Lee Vinsel, a Virginia Tech professor of science, technology, and society who wrote a book about the history of auto regulations, found no records of public leaders of the era raising that possibility. The process they established 50 years ago remains intact despite the fact that car companies were put in the regulatory driver's seat.
The rules for any car sold for use on public roads are established by the Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards. New technologies and features can be incorporated by NHTSA, but the process is slow.
The American Association for Justice, a trade group for trial lawyers, expects a new element to come into effect in ten to fifteen years.
Car companies simply affix a label to each vehicle signaling compliance through the process of self-certification. NHTSA launched only 90 investigations into FMVSS violations in 2020.
It is unusual to see crashes that are caused by non-compliance.
If there is a pattern of safety problems on public roads, NHTSA will issue a recall. The faulty or dangerously designed vehicles are still being driven by Americans.
The US has a much more proactive safety stance. When an airplane manufacturer wants to change a component or build a new plane, they need to get approval from the FAA.
Crash data shows that the framework has helped flyers. The United States experienced less aviation deaths per billion passenger miles from 2000 to 2009 than it did for drivers in cars or trucks. According to a Department of Transportation assessment, the FAA employs over 6,000 people working on vehicle safety while NHTSA only has 90. The FAA employed over 10,000 enforcement staff for every 100 aviation deaths, while NHTSA had less than that.
There are no deaths in commercial aviation in the United States, according to Pete Buttigieg, transportation secretary. Thousands and thousands of people will die every year because of the costs of doing business on the roads.
The FAA's regulatory model, centered around preapproval of new planes and technologies, is not applicable to automobiles, despite an American roadway death toll that is horrible compared to other developed countries.
Europeans are less likely to die in car crashes than Americans. The per capita roadway death rate in the US is much higher than in France.
There are many reasons for the gap, including higher transit usage in Europe and slower urban car speeds. The automotive regulatory standards in Europe are more strict than those in the US.
If a driver exceeds the posted speed limit, intelligent speed- assist technology that sounds an alarm or applies resistance to the accelerator must be included in new vehicle models. There isn't a requirement in the US.
The European system of automotive regulations is similar to the US approach to aviation.
the European system works more like the US’s hands-on approach toward aviation
Before a new vehicle or component can be released to the public, it must be approved by an EU member state. It takes a lot of time and money to get that green light. If a car company wants to deploy a technology that isn't regulated by the EU, they need to demonstrate that the feature is at least as safe as a vehicle without it.
The EU recently forcedTesla to make certain Autopilot functions available to all drivers in order to comply with European car rules. Regulators in Europe haven't approved any deployment of FSD.
The team leader for automated and connected vehicles and safety at the European Commission made no apologies for Europe's regulatory aggressiveness. He said that they were talking about very complex, safety critical products. We need to make sure that the products are safe for production and for release.
Over-the-air updates are an increasingly common method of updating car software that doesn't require the owner to visit a dealership. In America, cars can be updated whenever they want, but in Europe they have to go through the approval process.
“We need to ensure that these products are safe for production — and that they continue to be safe after they’ve been released”
The requirement encourages automakers to limit the number of over-the-air updates. One of the things that type approval has going for it is that car companies have to measure twice and cut once. There is no regulatory cost for mediocre products in the US. The companies should be forced to get it right the first time.
Jascha Franklin-Hodge is the chief of streets for the city of Boston who used to work in Silicon Valley. Franklin-Hodge was worried that carmakers would adopt a software development mentality with an acceptance of errors.
The American norm of self-certification is different to the European regulatory system. It depends on who you're talking to.
For governments that use a small army of engineers to test vehicles and for car companies that have to navigate complex regulatory systems before they can sell to the public, the type approval process is expensive.
The status quo is preferred by American car makers. John Bozzella, head of the Alliance for automotive innovation, said that the current self-certification model should be preserved.
Fulton was the deputy assistant secretary for transportation policy. inch works at a trucking company There are no clear benefits to shifting NHTSA to a type approval model.
The FAA's type approval model can be extremely costly and add time to the deployment of new technologies, according to a former Duke engineering professor who now works at NHTSA.
Adding a few more engineers to NHTSA might be a good idea to slow down the launch of the work-in-progress system. Cars with three-ton computers on wheels strengthen the arguments in favor of pre approval. Compared with the carnage on US roads, partially automated cars seem like the same as the airplanes that the US has long regulated with type approval.
The arguments in favor of preapproval strengthen as automobiles morph into three-ton computers on wheels
The FAA's use of preapproval as a model was cited by NHTSA in its guidance about regulating self-driving cars.
A source said that NHTSA is developing a pilot that will allow it to weigh in before a new automated technology is used on public roads.
The NHTSA is committed to continually evaluating its authorities and processes to help ensure the safe development of advanced vehicle technologies, according to a NHTSA spokesman.
Consumer Reports has a manager of vehicle technology. Pre-approval is needed for self-certification to be an effective strategy.
The idea of questioning self-certification is so sensitive that Buttigieg quickly changed the subject in an interview earlier this year.
It is becoming unavoidable that the topic is uncomfortable. The country's existing regulatory framework is ill-equipped to deal with the rise of automated car technology. Things will have to change.
The traditional line between state-licensed drivers and federally approved vehicles is already being muddyed by ADAS systems. The driver of a tractor trailer was killed when a car with autopilot on crashed into the trailer.
One way or another, things will have to change.
The National Transportation Safety Board cited the driver of the car for failing to pay enough attention to the task at hand and for designing the autopilot system to make it easy for it to be activated where it isn't meant to be used. Federal or state officials should be in charge of preventing a repeat. It isn't obvious.
Level 4 vehicles are capable of being operated without any engagement from a driver on certain roads. The states of California and New York City have regulations in place for the deployment of Level 4 vehicles. NHTSA forced EasyMile to stop its self-driving shuttle operations in 2020 after an injury in Columbus, Ohio.
As we enter an era of automated driving, how can we make sure road users are protected? The weaknesses of self-certification have been ignored by discussions about adjusting car regulations for self-certification. Federal legislation has been introduced that would give NHTSA the power to exempt more cars from safety requirements. Ensuring safe technology deployment isn't a recipe for success.
Buttigieg seems to understand the need for a different path for oversight. Many of the regulations to keep cars safe are based on how cars used to be. It is important that they are based on how cars are going to be.
There is opposition from the auto industry as well as fiscal hawks who are wary of adding to NHTSA's budget. The transition doesn't need to happen all at once; it could start with a few checks for safety problems. The wisdom of putting work-in-progress ADAS on public roads might be reconsidered.
With road deaths already at a 20-year high, we need fewer risks on the roads. It's important that type approval is used to help navigate the future.
Lucas Peilert helped with research.