Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg urged Tesla CEO Elon Musk on Wednesday to contact him directly regarding his concerns about the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration's decision to appoint a senior adviser who has been critical toward the electric car maker.
The NHTSA confirmed this week that Duke University professor Missy Cummings is being named a senior adviser for safety. Buttigieg addressed the situation hours after Musk criticized Cummings’ hiring on Twitter.
"He's welcome to call me if he's concerned," Buttigieg told reporters Wednesday, according to Reuters. "We are responsible for making sure that every vehicle on the road is safe."
In August, the NHTSA launched a probe of Tesla’s Autopilot function, a semi-autonomous driving system that requires human oversight. The probe is focused on 12 crashes in which Tesla vehicles using Autopilot purportedly failed to detect emergency vehicles.
Tesla officials have maintained the Autopilot feature is safe.
Cummings has criticized Tesla and Musk on several occasions on her Twitter account. In 2019, she wrote that Autopilot "easily causes mode confusion, is unreliable and unsafe" and called for the NHTSA to consider a recall of Tesla vehicles.
"Objectively, her track record is extremely biased against Tesla," Musk wrote on Twitter.
Cummings responded to the tweet, telling Musk she was "happy to sit down and talk with you anytime," according to Reuters. Her Twitter account is currently set to private.
Cummings is a former Naval officer. She is a professor in Duke University’s department of electrical and computer engineering.