Huge Tesla recall prompts doubts over self-driving claims

Tesla is recalling 362,000 US vehicles to update its Full Self-Driving (FSD) Beta software after US regulators said the driver assistance system did not adequately adhere to traffic safety laws and could cause crashes.

Feb 17, 2023, updated Feb 17, 2023
A Tesla vehicle. (File image)

A Tesla vehicle. (File image)

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) says the Tesla software allows a vehicle to “exceed speed limits or travel through intersections in an unlawful or unpredictable manner (which) increases the risk of a crash”.

Tesla will release an over-the-air (OTA) software update free of charge, and the electric vehicle maker said it is not aware of any injuries or deaths that may be related to the recall issue. The automaker said it had 18 warranty claims.

The US-only recall covers 2016-2023 Model S and Model X vehicles, 2017-2023 Model 3, and 2020-2023 Model Y vehicles equipped with FSD Beta software or pending installation.

Tesla shares were down 3.6 per cent at $US206.62 on Thursday afternoon. It was among the most actively traded stocks on US exchanges.

US senators Ed Markey and Richard Blumenthal, both Democrats, said the recall was “long overdue”, adding, “Tesla must finally stop overstating the real capabilities of its vehicles”.

Tesla could not be reached for comment, but Musk tweeted on Thursday that the word “recall” for an over-the-air software update is “anachronistic and just flat wrong!”

Tesla said in “certain rare circumstances … the feature could potentially infringe upon local traffic laws or customs while executing certain driving manoeuvres”.

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Possible situations where the problem could occur include travelling or turning through certain intersections during a yellow traffic light and making a lane change out of certain turn-only lanes to continue travelling straight, NHTSA said.

NHTSA said “the system may respond insufficiently to changes in posted speed limits or not adequately account for the driver’s adjustment of the vehicle’s speed to exceed posted speed limits”.

Last year, Tesla recalled nearly 54,000 US vehicles with FSD Beta software that may allow some models to conduct “rolling stops” and not come to a complete stop at some intersections, posing a safety risk, NHTSA said.

In December, NHTSA opened two new special investigations into crashes involving Tesla vehicles, including an eight-vehicle crash in San Francisco on the Bay Bridge in which a driver reported the FSD feature had malfunctioned.

Since 2016, NHTSA has opened more than three dozen investigations involving Tesla crashes where advanced driver assistance systems were suspected of use and 19 deaths were reported.

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