Tesla, the renowned electric car manufacturer, has issued a recall for nearly 2 million vehicles in the United States. The recall comes in response to a review of approximately 1,000 accidents involving Tesla cars with the Autopilot feature activated.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) released a letter stating that Tesla has agreed to implement a wireless software update to restrict the use of the Autosteer function. This measure aims to address concerns regarding drivers’ ability to resume control of the vehicle while the Autopilot feature is engaged.
Background of Tesla’s Autopilot
Tesla has been at the forefront of developing driver-assistance features, including the Autopilot and Full Self-Driving capabilities. The company claims that these technologies enhance safety and make driving more secure than traditional human-operated vehicles. However, the NHTSA has been investigating accidents related to Tesla’s Autopilot and Autosteer functions for over two years.
This recall comes after The Washington Post published an investigative report highlighting several serious accidents, some of which resulted in fatalities, where the Autopilot feature should not have been activated.
Limitations of Autopilot
While Tesla’s owner’s manuals state that the Autopilot feature should only be used on highways and limited-access roads with an attentive driver, the company has promoted the idea that their driver-assistance features can safely handle driving decisions in various settings.
However, the NHTSA’s investigation found numerous incidents that suggest these features do not live up to their names of “Autopilot” and “Full Self-Driving.” In its letter to Tesla, the safety regulator stated that, in certain circumstances, the controls of the Autosteer function may not be sufficient to prevent driver misuse, leading to an increased risk of accidents when drivers are not fully engaged and ready to regain control of the vehicle.
Software Update and Communication
As part of the recall, Tesla will release a wireless software update that restricts the use of the Autosteer function. Additionally, the company will send letters to vehicle owners notifying them of the change.
This proactive approach aims to address the concerns raised by the NHTSA and improve the safety of Tesla vehicles on the road. By limiting the functionality of the Autopilot feature, Tesla intends to ensure that drivers are fully attentive and ready to take control of their vehicles when necessary.
Tesla’s History with Autopilot Issues
This is not the first time Tesla has faced pressure from the NHTSA to make changes to its Autopilot and Full Self-Driving features due to safety concerns. In February, Tesla recalled 363,000 vehicles in the United States that were operating with the Full Self-Driving (FSD) feature, as it was found that these vehicles violated traffic laws.
The violations included driving straight through intersections while in a turning lane, entering controlled lanes without coming to a complete stop, and entering intersections during a fixed yellow traffic signal without proper caution.
Both the NHTSA and the National Transportation Safety Board have been investigating Tesla vehicle crashes involving various driver-assistance features, including collisions with emergency vehicles at the scene of other accidents.
Tesla is not the only automaker offering driver-assistance features marketed as “autonomous.” Other companies, too, have faced safety challenges. General Motors’ Cruise unit recently suspended its self-driving taxi service nationwide after California authorities revoked its operating permit following an accident.
However, Tesla’s emphasis on autonomous driving, evident through its Autopilot and Full Self-Driving branding, has brought increased scrutiny to the company. Tesla charges an additional $6,000 for vehicles equipped with its “Enhanced Autopilot” and $12,000 for the Full Self-Driving feature. Some customers who paid for these features have expressed their dissatisfaction, believing that the technology does not justify the additional expense.
While there is support for Tesla’s driver-assistance features among other owners, reports of serious accidents and fatalities documented by law enforcement and safety regulators may hinder Tesla’s efforts to market its vehicles and their costly features.
Tesla’s decision to recall 2 million vehicles to limit the use of the Autopilot feature follows a review of accidents involving the function. The company aims to address concerns raised by the NHTSA regarding drivers’ readiness to resume control when the Autopilot feature is engaged.
By implementing a wireless software update, Tesla hopes to improve safety and reduce the risk of accidents caused by driver misuse. This recall highlights the ongoing challenges faced by automakers in developing and marketing autonomous driving technologies while ensuring the utmost safety on the roads.