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Pete Buttigieg says there’s ‘real concern’ about how drivers interact with systems like Tesla’s Autopilot

Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg, and
Tesla CEO Elon Musk.
Getty Images
  • Pete Buttigieg said the way drivers interact with systems like Tesla’s Autopilot was of concern.
  • The Transportation Secretary said assisted-driving technology has “a lot of promise.”
  • But he raised questions about the safety of driver assistance systems for road users.

The way drivers interact with self-driving systems such as Tesla’s Autopilot system was a cause for concern, Pete Buttigieg said. 

“There is a real concern that’s not limited to the technology, itself but the interaction between the technology and the driver,” the Transportation Secretary said about investigations into Tesla’s software at a news conference Tuesday.

“The question is not are they absolutely free of problems or a thousand percent foolproof,” Buttigieg added. “The question is: how can we be sure that they will lead to a better set of safety outcomes?”

While self-driving technology had “a lot of promise,” he warned: “We just have to make sure it unfolds in a responsible fashion.”

Tesla’s Autopilot function is intended for use on highways, while Full Self-Driving mode can operate in urban settings and allows the vehicle to change lanes, recognize stop signs and traffic lights, as well as park.

Tesla CEO Elon Musk previously said that the software would eventually be able to operate entirely autonomously and be safer than human drivers. He’s argued that fully self-driving cars represent Tesla’s future.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has been looking into numerous crashes involving Tesla’s advanced driver-assistance systems since 2021. In March the safety agency opened another investigation following reports that the steering wheel on Tesla’s Model Y could fall off while being driven.

The NHTSA is also examining whether the driver of a Tesla that struck a high school student in April was using the assisted driving technology at the time. 

The NHTSA, Tesla, and Buttigieg’s office didn’t respond to requests for comment from Insider. 

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