Did Tesla Ignore Safety Warnings and Put Autopilot Users in Danger?

Electric car maker Tesla Motors Inc (NASDAQ:TSLA) allegedly ignored warnings from a tech partner that users of its self-driving Autopilot system need to keep their hands on the wheel during operation.

Mobileye, which worked with Tesla to develop the system, said in a recent filing that it was assured Tesla would require far more safety restrictions than it actually wound up implementing. From Reuters:

Mobileye NV said in a U.S. securities filing on Friday that its top executives were assured by Tesla Motors Inc Chief Executive Elon Musk that drivers of the company’s electric cars would not be allowed to take their hands off the wheel when using the “Autopilot” driving assistance system, but Tesla later allowed hands-free driving over Mobileye’s objections. Mobileye said that in product-planning communications between the top executives of Mobileye and Tesla going back to May 2015, the supplier expressed safety concerns regarding Tesla’s plans to allow drivers to remove their hands from the wheel while driving.

Back in May, a Tesla Model S driver died while using the Autopilot feature. The company admitted that the death could have been prevented with greater safety restrictions.

Today, Tesla said it would update Autopilot to make it harder for operators to ignore the “hands on the wheel” warnings.

“It has long been Mobileye’s position that Tesla’s Autopilot should not be allowed to operate hands-free without proper and substantial technological restrictions and limitations,” Mobileye said in its filing, which it said was made in response to inquiries. Mobileye, an Israeli company that is a leader in vision systems for vehicles, further alleged in its filing that Musk promised in a subsequent face-to-face meeting with Mobileye Chairman and Chief Technology Officer Amnon Shashua that its Autopilot system would require drivers to keep their hands on the wheel.

However, Tesla later backed off this pledge, Mobileye said in its filing with the U.S. Securities Commission, launching hands-free activation features late last year.

Tesla could face questioning from regulators on the issue, especially if it did indeed ignore warnings from its tech partner, as the claim states.

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Tesla shares closed at $205.40 per share on Friday, up $4.98 (+2.48%). Year-to-date, TSLA has fallen 14.42%.

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