Tesla recently announced a massive recall affecting over 2 million vehicles in the U.S., which amounts to nearly all the Tesla cars on American roads. This recall is primarily focused on issues related to Tesla’s “Autopilot” system, a central feature in the electric carmaker’s vehicles.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) initiated this recall following a years-long investigation that uncovered several safety concerns associated with the Autopilot system, despite Tesla’s disputes regarding the findings.
The recall aims to address defects in how Tesla vehicles ensure that drivers remain attentive while using the Autopilot advanced driver-assistance system. This move comes after meetings between the NHTSA and Tesla, starting in October, where safety concerns were discussed.
While Tesla agreed to a voluntary recall and some software adjustments, it did not fully accept the NHTSA’s analysis. The recall follows a two-year investigation by the agency into accidents, including some fatal incidents, involving Tesla vehicles operating in Autopilot mode.
Impacted Tesla Models
The recall covers almost all Tesla vehicles currently on U.S. roads, except those that do not support the company’s Autopilot system. This includes Tesla models Y, S, 3, and X produced since October 2012.
Tesla’s Autopilot is an advanced driver-assistance system, including features like Autosteer and Traffic-Aware Cruise Control. This system, standard in Tesla vehicles, enables semi-autonomous driving through the use of sensors and cameras.
Tesla is addressing the recall through an over-the-air software update sent to affected vehicles. This update started rolling out recently and comes at no cost to Tesla owners.
Software Update Details
The software update enhances driver monitoring within Tesla’s Autopilot system. It introduces new driver-engagement checks and alerts to prevent drivers from becoming distracted while using Autopilot. For example, the updated software will issue alerts if a driver attempts to use Autosteer in unsuitable driving conditions, such as non-limited-access highways.
Additionally, it will disable Autosteer if the driver repeatedly fails to demonstrate continuous attention while using the feature. Driver engagement is monitored using hand-detecting pressure sensors on the steering wheel and an in-vehicle camera tracking the driver’s head movements.
Recent investigations have raised concerns about the safety of Tesla’s Autopilot system. Since 2019, vehicles in Autopilot mode have been involved in 736 crashes, according to a Washington Post investigation. The number of accidents has been on the rise over the past four years. Notably, Autopilot-related crashes have been particularly dangerous for motorcyclists, with four fatalities since 2019. Tesla has faced scrutiny from the federal government before for a feature that allowed drivers to remove their hands from the wheel.
While the software update addresses some safety concerns related to Tesla’s Autopilot, critics argue that it falls short of a comprehensive solution. Despite progress, challenges remain, such as drivers potentially circumventing the monitoring system.
The recall could also lead to lawsuits claiming Autopilot’s misuse resulted in accidents. Ultimately, this recall is a significant development for Tesla, highlighting the challenges and responsibilities associated with advanced driver-assistance systems in modern vehicles.