A spokesperson for the National Highway Traffic Safety Agency (NHTSA) has said that Tesla’s decision to remove the gear-selector stalk from the steering wheel and automate shifting between the park, reverse, neutral and drive (PRND) does not violate any federal motor vehicle rules.
At the moment, the gear selection via touchscreen is a backup while Tesla is working to fully automate the process. A video of the new touchscreen PRND interface in the refreshed versions of Tesla’s Model S and X surfaced online. This caused some controversy over the safety of using a touchscreen to control such basic, safety-critical functions.
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However, according to the NHTSA, Tesla isn’t violating any safety standards. It also says that it is not aware of any problems “at this time”.
“NHTSA is aware of the touch screen shift control Tesla developed for its Model S and other vehicles. A properly configured transmission shift control operated by means of a touch screen interface would not violate federal motor vehicle safety standards. Also, Tesla has certified compliance with all applicable safety standards. At this time, there are no known compliance concerns related to the shift control configuration,” according to a statement to The Verge.
This is good news for Tesla who is already under investigation for over two dozen crashes involving its vehicles. NHTSA said it was sending its special crash investigation team to probe two crashes. They include a crash involving a Tesla suspected of being in Autopilot mode when it rammed into a parked state police patrol car.
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