Tesla Recalls Roughly 362800 Vehicles Over Full Self-Driving Beta Software

Tesla is issuing a recall for roughly 362,800 vehicles equipped with its advanced-driver assistance system that the company markets as Full Self-Driving beta, federal safety regulators said.

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By guest author Ryan Felton from the Wall Street Journal.

Tesla Inc. TSLA -1.27%decrease; red down pointing triangle is recalling 362800 vehicles equipped with its high-profile advanced-driver assistance feature, a technology marketed as Full Self-Driving Beta, in response to regulatory pressure, the U.S. top car-safety agency said.

In a notice published Thursday, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said that some Teslas in rare circumstances could violate local traffic laws, potentially increasing the risk of a collision if a driver fails to intervene.

NHTSA, the auto industry’s main regulator, said it told Tesla late last month about potential concerns related to characteristics of the system specific to certain roadway environments, such as traveling through intersections during a stale yellow light and adjusting the vehicle’s speed while traveling through certain variable speed zones.

As of this week, Tesla had identified 18 warranty claims potentially related to the conditions above, and it isn’t aware of any injuries or deaths related to those situations, the notice said.

Tesla said it would deploy an over-the-air software update in the coming weeks to improve how the technology negotiates certain driving maneuvers during the relevant conditions, according to the filing.

Tesla didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

On Thursday, Tesla Chief Executive Elon Musk tweeted: “The word ‘recall’ for an over-the-air software update is anachronistic and just flat wrong!”

Recalls typically require car owners to take their vehicles to a mechanic to have a fix made. Tesla can update vehicle software remotely.

According to the NHTSA filing, Tesla didn’t initially concur with the agency’s findings but decided on Feb. 7 to administer a voluntary recall out of an abundance of caution.

The recall campaign represents one of the most forceful regulatory actions yet on Tesla’s efforts to automate its vehicles, a strategy that has been a revenue opportunity for the auto maker and is key to its vision of eventually replacing drivers with robots.

Tesla’s shares ended down 5.7% on Thursday.

The auto industry’s main regulator has been looking into Tesla’s advanced-driver assistance technology. Photo: ANNEGRET HILSE/REUTERS

Regulators have long been looking into Tesla’s driver-assistance systems amid high-profile crashes and questions about whether the company was promising more than it could deliver and whether users were in jeopardy from misuse. The Justice Department and the Securities and Exchange Commission have also been investigating whether Tesla misled consumers about how Autopilot performed.

Mr. Musk has vocally defended his offerings, suggesting it would be unethical to not put such technology on the roadways to improve safety.

Despite the name, Full Self-Driving doesn’t make cars fully autonomous, and Tesla instructs drivers to remain alert, with their hands on the wheel.

Autopilot can handle driving tasks on the highway, such as steering and adjusting speed. Full Self-Driving Beta, which Tesla charges customers
USD 15000 to buy, adds functionality beyond Autopilot and expands the areas and situations in which drivers can use the assistance features, allowing for navigation on city streets.

The software is available to any Tesla owner who buys the hardware and software suite of features needed for it, the company says.

The recall covers 2016-2023 Tesla Model S and Model X vehicles, 2017-2023 Model 3 sedans and 2020-2023 Model Y SUVs.

In the past, Tesla has said driving with Autopilot engaged is safer than driving without it. It also has cited its own data showing that crashes were less common when drivers were using Autopilot, though some researchers have criticized Tesla’s methodology.

NHTSA has been examining Tesla’s driver-assistance systems since mid-2021, when it opened a probe into a series of crashes in which Tesla vehicles using Autopilot struck first-responder vehicles stopped for roadway emergencies.

NHTSA said in a statement that it would continue to monitor the recall remedies Tesla issues for effectiveness. The recall doesn’t address the full scope of NHTSA’s investigation, which the agency said remains open and active.

The auto regulator last year said it was upgrading its investigation into the emergency-vehicle crashes to an engineering analysis after identifying new crashes involving Autopilot. The upgrade is a critical step for determining whether to order a safety recall. In doing so, NHTSA also said it has expanded its examination of Autopilot to include a wider range of crashes, not only those at emergency scenes.

The agency said it would further assess how drivers interact with Autopilot and the degree to which it might reduce motorists’ attentiveness.

Jennifer Homendy, the head of the National Transportation Safety Board, last year said Tesla shouldn’t roll out the city-driving tool before addressing what the agency views as safety deficiencies in the company’s technology. The NTSB, which investigates crashes and issues safety recommendations though it has no regulatory authority, has urged Tesla to clamp down on how drivers are able to use the company’s driver-assistance tools.

NHTSA said that testing performed by agency staff on vehicles equipped with Tesla’s advanced driver-assistance system was pivotal to its understanding of how the technology performed on the roads.

The regulatory agency has said no vehicle available for purchase today is capable of driving itself, and the most advanced vehicle technologies still require a fully attentive human driver at all times. The safety agency said it doesn’t approve or test vehicles before their introduction for sale.