The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has reportedly expanded its investigation into Tesla’s Autopilot software, which now encompasses more than 800,000 vehicles. This investigation, which has been ongoing since last August, has focused on several high profile car accidents involving vehicles using Tesla’s self-driving car software. Along with several recent recalls, the investigation has cast a negative light on Tesla’s safety record, and some say the expanded investigation may lead to yet another recall.

What is Tesla?

Tesla is the largest manufacturer of electric vehicles right now, with annual sales of over $31 billion per year. In addition to producing electric cars and other vehicles, it also produces batteries, solar panels, and other “green” technology. It also creates technology for self-driving vehicles, including its Autopilot software and its Full Self-Driving software.

What is Tesla’s Autopilot Software?

“Autopilot” is the name for one of Tesla’s proprietary pieces of software for self-driving vehicles. The software takes limited control over the vehicle’s functions, allowing it to accelerate, brake, and steer within its own lane without need for the driver to act themselves. However, the program still requires active driver supervision, meaning a licensed driver must be in the driver’s seat to take control of the vehicle whenever necessary.

Why is Autopilot Under Investigation?

The NHTSA began its investigation last August after ten accidents involving cars using the Autopilot software. The investigation is concerned about safety issues with the software, which may engage in unsafe driving, or which may cause errors that can potentially result in accidents. In fact, six additional accidents have been added to the investigation since it first started, as safety issues continue to plague Autopilot, as well as Tesla’s Full Self-Driving software.

Why is This Important?

Tesla is far from the only manufacturer putting out self-driving cars, and car manufacturers have been pushing towards the technology as a way of mitigating accidents. However, the software is still new and unreliable, and Tesla in particular has a notably spotty safety record compared to other major auto manufacturers. Tesla has faced three safety recalls in the past year, and with the expansion of the NHTSA investigation, some fear a fourth may be on its way.

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