Why Tesla Fans Are Mad Over Cummings Announcement

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US investigators said a driver was at the wheel of a crashed Tesla, contradicting initial reports
US investigators said a driver was at the wheel of a crashed Tesla, contradicting initial reports

The Biden administration plans to appoint Missy Cummings as a new senior adviser for safety at the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Being that Cummings has been known to be critical of Tesla’s autopilot and other drive-assist systems, her appointment is getting backlash from Tesla and Elon Musk’s most devout fans.

The backlash she received following her expected appointment was so intense that her Twitter account was shifted to private and then deleted, according to CNN.

Musk himself has criticized the new role for Cummings, saying of her appointment, "Objectively, her track record is extremely biased against Tesla." Cummings responded to Musk’s criticism by writing on Twitter that she would be “happy to sit down and talk” with the Tesla creator, Reuters reports.

The U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg said Wednesday that Musk could call him directly if he has questions, according to Reuters. “We are responsible for making sure that every vehicle on the road is safe,” Buttigieg told reporters.

Cummings is a professor in the Duke University Pratt School of Engineering, Duke Institute of Brain Sciences, and director of Humans and Autonomy Laboratory and Duke Robotics. According to the Duke University site, her research interests include “human-unmanned vehicle interaction, human-autonomous system collaboration, human-systems engineering, public policy implications of unmanned vehicles, and the ethical and social impact of technology.”

Cummings also sits on the Swedish driver-assist company Veoneer’s board of directors, but NHTSA spokesperson Lucia Sanchez told CNN Business that any conflict of interest would be resolved before Cummings starts work.

Tesla Autopilot The inside of a Tesla vehicle is viewed as it sits parked in a new Tesla showroom and service center in Red Hook, Brooklyn. Photo: Spencer Platt/Getty Images

So far, the government has not taken much interest in regulating driver-assist technologies, but the Biden administration’s appointment of Cummings may indicate their willingness to start doing so.

NHTSA identified 12 crashes involving vehicles using Tesla’s driver assistance systems and emergency vehicles. Most of these incidents took place after dark, according to Reuters

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