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Software Fix, Not Garage Fix, Tesla Takes to the Airwaves to Update 2 Million Vehicles


Following a comprehensive two-year investigation by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), Tesla is set to recall over 2 million vehicles to address safety concerns related to the Autopilot system, as outlined in new NHTSA documents. The company will provide free over-the-air (OTA) updates to owners, introducing enhancements to ensure driver attentiveness while utilizing Tesla’s controversial driver assistance system. This recall encompasses all current Tesla electric vehicles produced since the launch of Autopilot in 2015, including the Model 3, Model Y, Model S, and Model X.

According to the NHTSA document, the remedy will introduce additional controls and alerts to those already present in the affected vehicles. This aims to further encourage drivers to uphold their continuous driving responsibility whenever Autosteer is engaged. While acknowledging that Autopilot, particularly its Autosteer component, already incorporates several controls to ensure driver attention, the document highlights that these measures may not always be sufficient.

“In certain circumstances when Autosteer is engaged, the prominence and scope of the feature’s controls may not be sufficient to prevent driver misuse of the SAE Level 2 advanced driver-assistance feature,” states the document, indicating a potential increased risk of collisions.

Tesla has been directed to address the driver monitoring system with additional controls and alerts. The solution will emphasize encouraging drivers to uphold their continuous driving responsibility when Autosteer is engaged, including maintaining hands on the steering wheel and attentiveness to the roadway. This entails introducing more prominent visual alerts, facilitating the toggling of Autosteer, and implementing potential suspension from Autosteer if drivers consistently fail to adhere to responsible behavior.

In response to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s (NHTSA) directive, Tesla has acknowledged the order and committed to providing the necessary fix. An over-the-air (OTA) software update, delivered free of charge, is set to address the issue, with owner notification letters expected to be dispatched by February 10, 2023. The directive applies to 2,031,220 vehicles, but models produced after December 7th have likely already integrated the update.

The NHTSA initiated an investigation into Autopilot in August, prompted by 11 crashes involving parked first responder vehicles since 2018, resulting in 17 injuries and one fatality. In response, Tesla was requested to provide detailed documentation on how the driver assistance system ensures driver attention to the road while Autopilot is active and whether there are restrictions on its usage.

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