In documents filed Friday by U.S. regulators, the German automaker stated that 227 vehicles were affected by the issue and that it was already fixed through an update to an internal computer server.
However, the fact that Tesla and Mercedes recalled their vehicles because of distracted driving raises questions about whether the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is applying the same federal safety standards to all cars.
Philip Koopman, a Carnegie Mellon University professor of electrical engineering and computer engineering said that "MB is following all the regulations as they are supposed to -- in stark contrast to what we have been seeing from Tesla." Koopman stated that if NHTSA does not take action against Tesla the agency will have one standard to Tesla and another Mercedes and other automakers.
NHTSA did not address Tesla's double standard, but stated in a Friday statement that the federal vehicle safety law prohibits manufacturers selling vehicles that pose an unreasonable safety risk.
The statement stated that every motor vehicle manufacturer in America has the responsibility to immediately fix any safety defects in their vehicles.
According to the agency, it is evaluating how automakers can identify and protect themselves against distraction hazards caused by faults, misuse, or intentional use of infotainment screen. NHTSA stated that it communicates regularly with automakers to address concerns. It also reviews consumer complaints and the "massive amount" of data companies must submit on a daily basis in order to look for safety hazards. NHTSA will take immediate action if data shows that there is a risk.
Tesla's media relations department has been disbanded. A message was left Friday asking for comment.
Mercedes stated in documents that drivers could use television programs and the internet while driving on certain 2021 and 2022 EQS, and S models vehicles. According to Mercedes, the automaker stated that it would disable the features while cars are moving. However, the vehicles recalled had an incorrect computer configuration. "If an occupant was to actively select the function of application while driving, then driver distraction could result, which might increase the risk for a crash," the company stated in documents. The cars were equipped with active, connected "Mercedes me", accounts.
Mercedes stated that there have been no reports of injuries or crashes resulting from the problem. It was discovered in Germany in a company vehicle.
A Tesla owner in Portland, Oregon filed a complaint against NHTSA last month after discovering that he could play video and surf the internet while driving his 2021 Tesla Model 3. Thursday's statement from the agency stated that it was in contact with Tesla regarding the matter.
NHTSA is already investigating why Tesla's Autopilot partially automated driving system crashes into emergency vehicles. It also inquired why Tesla didn’t file recall documents after it made an over-the air internet update to fix the safety issue. After receiving a complaint about Tesla's "Full Self-Driving", it is now investigating the software's performance.
Tesla claims that neither system can drive cars and that drivers need to be prepared to intervene at any time.
Jason Levine, executive Director of the non-profit Center for Auto Safety, stated that the auto industry appears to have reached a point where infotainment screens will require it to make a decision about whether it wants to enable distracted driving or not.
Levine stated that while Mercedes is pleased to recall the vehicle and fix the unreasonable risk it poses to all road users, NHTSA should quickly take action to ensure all screen-based entertainment distractions from vehicles in motion are disabled.
Mercedes is likely to be paying attention to U.S safety laws now that it was forced to pay $13 million to NHTSA in 2019, for several reporting errors involving recalled vehicles.
After the agency claimed that Mercedes wasn't reporting safety issues quickly enough and didn't send out recall notifications letters fast enough, the automaker agreed to the payment.
The U.S. Mercedes unit stated at the time that it had not done anything wrong intentionally.