The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) issued a cease-and-desist order to the manufacturers of the equipment, saying that it endangers the lives of the drivers and other road users.
Detroit News first reported the NHTSA order.
“A product intended to circumvent motor vehicle safety and driver attentiveness is unacceptable,” said Heidi King, NHTSA Deputy Administrator. He further added that “By preventing the safety system from warning the driver to return hands to the wheel, this product disables an important safeguard, and could put customers and other road users at risk.”
The device is manufactured by a Californian company called Dolder, Falco and Reese Partners LLC, and it is designed to trick Tesla Autopilot safety features to stop issuing safety warnings when drivers get their hands off the wheel.
According to an earlier Road Show report, Autopilot Buddy is a lightweight device that drivers attach to the side of the steering wheel to imitate the driver’s hands when the autopilot is engaged.
The device makers admitted that the device disables in-built safety features on Tesla EVs, saying that their product is not made for public road use, but for closed tracks only.
Dolder, Falco and Reese Partners LLC also said that when drivers are purchasing Autopilot Buddy, they agree to its terms of sale, which states that the driver is responsible for any accidents caused following the use of the device.
The company’s official website issues a “Warning: The Autopilot Buddy is not a safety device. Using this device irresponsibly may cause injury or death. This device is designed for closed track use, not for use on public streets.”
Autopilot Buddy is selling at $199, but only to international customers. The company said in a statement that they’re no longer taking orders within the United States.
Tesla autopilot issues warnings to drivers to place their hands back on the wheel at intervals depending on the speed the car is travelling at.
The company didn’t talk much about the interval timing.
However, according to Consumer Report on Model 3 testing, the car issued a visual warning in every 30 seconds, and a voice warning in every 45 seconds when the vehicle is travelling at 65mph.
And if the driver refused to yield to the warnings, the autopilot systems shut down in 60 seconds.
Tesla said in a statement that they fully support The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s action concerning Autopilot Buddy.