Tesla's Massive Recall for Autopilot Under Investigation

Written by Camilla Jessen

Apr.26 - 2024 1:35 PM CET

U.S. auto safety regulators are investigating Tesla's recall of over 2 million vehicles due to concerns about the safety of the Autopilot system.

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U.S. auto safety regulators have opened an investigation into Tesla's December recall of more than 2 million vehicles to address concerns about the Autopilot system's safety.

According to Reuters, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) is examining whether the recall and its associated software update are sufficient to address potential safety risks.

Background of the Recall

The December recall, which was Tesla's largest-ever, covered 2.03 million vehicles—almost all Tesla vehicles on U.S. roads—produced between 2012 and 2024.

The recall aimed to ensure drivers paid attention while using the Autopilot system, Tesla's advanced driver assistance technology. The Autopilot system is designed to allow cars to steer, accelerate, and brake automatically within their lane, while enhanced Autopilot can assist in changing lanes on highways, though it does not make vehicles fully autonomous.

NHTSA is investigating whether Tesla's recall remedy is adequate after identifying concerns related to crash events involving vehicles that had the recall software update installed.

The agency noted that Tesla's approach requires owners to opt-in and allows drivers to easily reverse the update, raising questions about the effectiveness of the recall in preventing driver misuse.

Tesla's statement in December acknowledged that Autopilot's software controls "may not be sufficient to prevent driver misuse" and could increase the risk of crashes.

NHTSA's investigation seeks to determine if the software update sufficiently addresses these risks, especially given incidents involving crash events after the update and preliminary NHTSA tests on remedied vehicles.

Previous Incidents

NHTSA's investigation builds on its ongoing Autopilot safety probe, which began in August 2021, following at least 13 Tesla crashes involving one or more fatalities and numerous incidents resulting in serious injuries where "foreseeable driver misuse of the system played an apparent role."

Consumer Reports, a nonprofit organization focused on evaluating products and services, criticized Tesla's Autopilot recall update in February, suggesting it did not adequately address many of NHTSA's safety concerns.

The organization urged the agency to require Tesla to take stronger measures to ensure safety, stating that the recall only addressed "minor inconveniences rather than fixing the real problems."

Implications for Tesla

The outcome of NHTSA's investigation could have significant implications for Tesla and the broader discussion around autonomous driving technology. As Autopilot is intended to assist drivers, questions remain about its safety and the effectiveness of Tesla's approach to addressing risks associated with driver misuse.

Tesla did not immediately respond to requests for comment on the ongoing investigation.

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