Putting a Tesla in "assertive" mode will effectively direct the car to tailgate other motorists, perform unsafe passing maneuvers, and roll through certain stops ("average" mode isn't much safer). All those behaviors are illegal in most U.S. states. [...]
Regulators, though, have so far had a hard time reining in AV companies that fail to prevent their customers from flouting roadway rules -- never mind ones like Tesla, which actively enable their customers who would use automation in service of their personal convenience and speed, rather than to enhance collective safety.
That's in part because, by and large, U.S. law tends to favor penalizing individual drivers for breaking the law, rather than penalizing car manufacturers whose vehicle designs make breaking those laws easy. No automobile company has ever been prosecuted for installing an engine that can propel a car more than 100 miles an hour, for instance, even though such speeds aren't legal on any road in America; nor have companies been held accountable when their customers use cruise control to speed, even though technology to automatically stop all speeding has existed for decades. [...]
"The way it's worked, historically, is that [the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration] is in charge of vehicle safety, and individual states have been in charge of the safety of human drivers," he said. "But it gets complicated when the car starts assuming the responsibility of the human driver... Stopping at a stop sign is not a federal law; it's a state law. Sure, NHTSA can say your car design is unsafe because it's breaking a lot of state laws, but they can't enforce those laws themselves."
Many states are pursuing legislation that would hold AV companies accountable for deploying vehicles that can violate roadway rules with the touch of a button -- though others, under pressure from industry lobbyists, are passing bills aimed at encouraging AV testing on public roads, and to shield their manufacturers from legal action when their safety software fails.
Why Tesla Can Program Its Cars to Break Road Safety Laws: