Tesla AutopilotEnlarge Photo
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration on Tuesday ordered the Autopilot Buddy's maker to pull it off the market in the U.S. Green Car Reports reported last week that the device tricked Tesla's Autopilot system into eliminating safety warnings.
Roadshow originally reported on the device, which is a small weight that attaches on one side of the steering wheel to mimic the weight of a driver's hands on the wheel.
The NHTSA order was reported by the Detroit News.
"A product intended to circumvent motor vehicle safety and driver attentiveness is unacceptable," said NHTSA Deputy Administrator Heidi King in a statement. "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."
NHTSA ordered the Autopilot Buddy's manufacturer, Dolder, Falco and Reese Partners LLC, of California, to cease marketing, sales, and distribution of the device in the U.S. by June 29.
Following the order, the company's website says the Autopilot Buddy "is designed for closed-track use, not for use on public streets. ... Warning: The Autopilot Buddy is not a safety device. Using this device irresponsibly may cause injury or death."
The device worked tricked the steering wheel torque sensor of the Tesla Model S and Model X, pulling on one side of the steering wheel and forcing the Autopilot system to correct for it, tricking it into thinking the driver's hands were putting pressure on the wheel.
Tesla Model S owner talks about some do's and don't with the Autopilot systemEnlarge Photo
Dolder, Falco and Reese was developing an Autopilot Buddy for the Model 3 at the time of NHTSA's order.
Following a software update last week, the Autopilot system issues warnings for drivers to retake the wheel at different intervals depending on the car's speed. The company won't reveal the intervals, but in Consumer Reports testing, a Model 3 gave drivers a visual warning after 30 seconds at 65 mph and an audible warning after 45 seconds, then shut the system down after 60 seconds. Those are shorter intervals than reported after a fatal crash of a Tesla Model X in California last March.
Tesla issued a statement and said, "We support NHTSA's action regarding this product."