Tesla Autopilot’s so-called “Elon Mode,” which is not really what it is called, is drawing attention from regulators because it enables fewer driver monitoring alerts.
The name “Elon Mode” didn’t come from Tesla.
It came from the infamous Tesla hacker Green who found out a new Autopilot mode hidden in Tesla’s software that appears to have little to no “nag,” which is what Tesla owners called alerts to apply torque to the steering wheel.
The “nag” is meant to ensure that drivers keep their hands on the steering wheel and be ready to take control at all times.
Green called it “Elon Mode” because the name in the software suggested it was meant for “executive testing.”
The mode is now drawing attention from regulators.
In a new letter to Tesla released by NHTSA this week, the regulators are asking Tesla to release more details about this mode and especially how many people have access to it.
This is directly from the letter:
Recently, NHTSA became aware that Tesla has introduced an Autopilot configuration that, when enabled, allows drivers using Autopilot to operate their vehicles for extended periods without Autopilot prompting the driver to apply torque to the steering wheel. NHTSA is concerned that this feature was introduced to consumer vehicles and, now that the existence of this feature is known to the public, more drivers may attempt to activate it. The resulting relaxation of controls designed to ensure that the driver remain engaged in the dynamic driving task could lead to greater driver inattention and failure of the driver to properly supervise Autopilot.
Tesla had until last week to answer, and it’s not clear if it did.
Green was able to use the mode, but he has root access in his vehicle, enabling him to access features that are not available otherwise.
NHTSA’s concerns about Tesla drivers getting around driver monitoring are not new. The agency has previously shut down “defeat devices” meant to enable drivers to avoid Autopilot nag.
The new effort from NHTSA comes amid “Elon Mode” being revealed by Green, but there are other concerns too.
Omar Qazi, who goes by WholeMarsBlog on X, is known as a Tesla uberbull and Elon Musk fanboy. He often shares Tesla FSD Beta drives on X and praises the performance of the system – praises that are often shared by Musk on his social media platform.
Many people have noted that he doesn’t get “nag” on these drives that he shares on social media at the same rate as most drivers.
Qazi has been known to dodge questions about this lack of nag:
NHTSA seems to be concerned about what Tesla is doing to make sure its driver monitoring is working properly.
While Tesla can’t avoid all people trying to avoid nag, it sounds like NHTSA wants the automaker to do as much as it can to avoid it.
Regulators are focusing their attention on Tesla’s Autopilot feature, specifically a mode known as “Elon Mode” that allows drivers to operate their vehicles without receiving frequent alerts to apply torque to the steering wheel. The name “Elon Mode” was coined by a Tesla hacker named Green, who discovered the hidden mode in Tesla’s software. The mode appears to have minimal or no nagging alerts, which are meant to ensure driver engagement and readiness to take control of the vehicle. Regulators are concerned that the relaxation of these controls could lead to driver inattention and a failure to properly supervise Autopilot. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has requested more information from Tesla about this mode, including how many people have access to it. Tesla was given a deadline to respond, but it is unclear if the company has done so. The NHTSA’s concerns about driver monitoring are not new, as the agency has previously addressed “defeat devices” that allow drivers to bypass Autopilot nag. In addition to “Elon Mode,” regulators are also scrutinizing Tesla influencer Omar Qazi, who has been observed driving without experiencing nagging alerts at the same rate as other drivers. The NHTSA wants to ensure that Tesla is taking appropriate measures to ensure driver monitoring is functioning effectively. While it may be impossible to prevent all attempts to avoid nagging alerts, the NHTSA expects Tesla to make every effort to address the issue.