National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA)

Top U.S. auto safety official Heidi King to step down

Heidi King, the acting administrator of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, is set to step down on August 31, Automotive News reports.

Why it matters: King was nominated a year ago to become permanent administrator, but never confirmed by Congress. Sources tell Axios that her management style alienated some at the agency, which has been coping with management churn and been accused by consumer advocates of being too cozy with the auto industry.

Tesla docs may signal tougher stance by federal auto-safety watchdog

Image of Tesla steering wheel wrapped in caution tape
Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

The federal government’s top auto-safety regulator has conducted sharply fewer defect investigations in recent years, but newly released documents involving Tesla's Autopilot suggest the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration may be getting more aggressive.

The big picture: Federal authorities leave it up to automakers to assess the safety of their vehicles, pushing for recalls only when a defect is detected. But as automated driving systems make their way into more vehicles, consumer advocates say increased federal oversight may be needed to ensure public safety.