SANTA BARBARA, CA The Dawn Project has recently uncovered that Tesla’s driver monitoring safety system, which is supposed to check that the driver is paying attention to the road ahead, is defective and not fit for purpose. The system also fails to detect whether or not the driver has both hands on the steering wheel when the vehicle is in Full Self-Driving mode.

Research has shown that the only way to ensure a driver is paying attention is to implement an effective driver monitoring system using cameras. 

Tesla duped NHTSA into designating Full Self-Driving as a Level 2 ADAS system, whilst simultaneously marketing and selling it as a fully autonomous car that requires some minor improvements.

NHTSA has recently written to Tesla demanding information on the function and capabilities of Tesla’s driver monitoring system, as well as demanding further and more detailed statistics regarding which version of Tesla’s self-driving software was in use during the 800 self-driving crashes that Tesla has been forced to report to the regulator.

Tesla has previously tried to conceal this information from both the regulators and the public. The Dawn Project has been calling for Tesla to make publicly available which supervised self-driving system was in operation during these hundreds of crashes.

Tesla’s failure to respond promptly and fully to NHTSA by July 19, 2023, could subject Tesla to civil penalties of up to $26,315 per violation per day, with a maximum of $131,564,183 for a related series of daily violations.

The Dawn Project’s tests of the driver monitoring system reveal that Tesla’s internal camera fails to recognise the following actions commonly performed by an inattentive driver:

    • Looking out of the side window for a prolonged period of time
    • Eating a meal while actively not paying attention to the road ahead
    • Turning around and looking in the back seat
    • Placing a weight on the steering wheel to simulate a driver’s hands

Joshua Brown’s fatal self-driving collision with a tractor-trailer in June 2016 was attributed to driver inattention by the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB). The NTSB said the truck should have been visible to Brown for at least seven seconds before impact. Brown “took no braking, steering or other actions to avoid the collision,” the NTSB report said. As a result, NHTSA required Tesla to add a driver monitoring system.

Dan O’Dowd, Founder of The Dawn Project commented: “Tesla’s driver monitoring system is defective. It is simply paying lip service to the regulators who were deceived into allowing Tesla to ship an unregulated self-driving car to more than a million ordinary consumers, on the basis that there was an effective driver monitoring system in place.

“The Dawn Project’s safety tests show that Tesla drivers can stare out of the window for minutes at time, look in the back seat for over five minutes, eat a meal and completely remove their hands from the steering wheel while the vehicle is in self-driving mode, a clear failure of Tesla’s so-called driver monitoring system.

“The chilling reality of Tesla’s failure to develop a fully functional driver monitoring system is that over a million self-driving Teslas on the road today are unable to detect an inattentive driver, and no doubt many of the hundreds of crashes and unknown number of Full Self-Driving deaths would have been avoided if Tesla had implemented an effective driver monitoring system.

“This typifies the lack of care and consideration that goes into the design and testing of Tesla’s Full Self-Driving safety features. Tesla did the bare minimum to create a superficial driver monitoring system just to satisfy the regulators.

“The lack of an effective driver monitoring system that requires people to keep their hands on the steering wheel and pay attention to the road means that Tesla’s Full Self-Driving system is an unacceptable breach of NHTSA’s requirements. The regulator must immediately recall Full Self-Driving and put an end to the reckless deployment of Tesla Full Self-Driving.

“Without an effective driving monitoring system, Tesla is putting over a million drivers in Joshua Brown’s seat.”