Feds crack down on device that disables Tesla safety warnings

Keith Laing
The Detroit News

Washington — Federal regulators issued a cease-and-desist order Tuesday to the maker of a product known as "Autopilot Buddy," which is designed to reduce the frequency of warnings drivers receive from Tesla Inc.'s Autopilot system. 

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said Autopilot Buddy, which is made by a California company known as Dolder, Falco and Reese Partners LLC, is too unsafe to be sold to U.S. drivers because "its primary function is to disable a safety feature in Tesla vehicles that monitors the driver’s hands on the steering wheel and warns the driver when hands are not detected."

“A product intended to circumvent motor vehicle safety and driver attentiveness is unacceptable,” NHTSA Deputy Administrator Heidi King said 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.”

The company is selling the Autopilot Buddy device to international customers for $199. The company says on its website that it is "not taking orders inside the U.S.A. at this time." 

Dolder, Falco and Reese Partners also says on its website that the Autopilot Buddy device is intended for "track use only."  The company admits that its device restricts built-in safety features of Tesla's electric cars, but it says drivers are responsible for any accidents that occur after its product has been installed. 

"By purchasing you agree to hold Dolder, Falco and Reese Partners LLC, its member, employees, officers, partners and their heirs harmless from any accidents or incidences with this device," the company's website says.

The website message continues: "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."  

Tesla said in a statement: 'We support NHTSA’s action regarding this product.”

NHTSA said its cease-and-desist letter directs Dolder, Falco and Reese Partners  to certify  that all U.S marketing, sales, and distribution of the Autopilot Buddy ends by June 29. 


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Twitter: @Keith_Laing