Some of the questions in the first letter are interesting. Question 3 is asking for an assessment of whether the changes from the emergency light detection update would have altered the outcome of the previous crashes being investigated.
Question 5 asks to see the agreement between Tesla and vehicle owners in terms of repairs, access to software, OTA updates, and compensation/goodwill available including when it comes to resolving lawsuits or arbitration. Reading between the lines, this almost feels tied to limiting FSD Beta access.
Thanks for the link to the letters, it validates my previous thoughts:
The letter is stating:
"As Tesla is aware, the Safety Act imposes an obligation on manufacturers of motor vehicles and
motor vehicle equipment to initiate a recall by notifying NHTSA when they determine vehicles
or equipment they produced contain defects related to motor vehicle safety or do not comply
with an applicable motor vehicle safety standard. "
An improvement of current feature sets such as detection of emergency vehicles is in my opinion not:
a/ a mitigation to a defect
b/ a non-compliance to applicable safety standards
The addition of a feature that could assist a responsible driver further than any other vehicle across all brands is not the same as a recall but rather an evolution of technology.
It's a shame that to do that, we have to push against Tesla's own naming and videos on their autopilot pages. You can't both say "Full Self Driving" is "only a name" and then decide that the word needs to be spread that "Full Self Driving requires driver attention at all times." A simple name change by Tesla here would be massively effective on the safety side, but tragic on the marketing side.
In a separate order to Tesla, NHTSA says that the company may be taking steps to hinder the agency’s access to safety information by requiring drivers who are testing “Full Self-Driving” software to sign non-disclosure agreements.
The order demands that Tesla describe the non-disclosure agreements and say whether the company requires owners of vehicles with Autopilot to agree “to any terms that would prevent or discourage vehicle owners from sharing information about or discussing any aspect of Autopilot with any person other than Tesla.”
There's an OR in there.
If the radio in the car suddenly starts playing a screeching tone at 100dB that can't be turned off, that can be a safety defect even if a radio is not required by FVMSS.
The question here is if "Autopilot" can be safely used by the population of Tesla drivers. If it can't, it poses a public safety risk. The investigation is clearly focused on determining if the rate of accidents on AP is much higher than when the car is driven manually. If it is, then it is important to look into it, because it's not actually a safety system at that point. You can't just claim something is a safety enhancement because it's "Designed to be one". It actually has to work, and work with real human drivers using it, not just perfect ones.