Tesla recalls nearly 12,000 US vehicles due to safety concerns

The Tesla plant in Fremont, Calif.
Tesla Model 3, S, X and Y manufactured between 2017 and 2021 have been recalled. Credits: AP

Following pressure from a US transport regulatory body, Tesla is recalling nearly 12,000 vehicles sold since 2017.

The issue comes after a software update in October was found to cause false forward-collision warnings and unexpected activation of the emergency brakes, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).

The models recalled included certain Model 3, S, X and Y vehicles manufactured between 2017 and 2021.

Normally, automakers issue recalls and owners take their cars to dealers for repairs or updates but Tesla can modify its cars by sending them software updates over the internet.

The company clarified that as of 29 October, more than 99.8% of the vehicles affected had installed an update so no further action was necessary.

The Tesla Model 3
The Tesla Model 3 (Tesla)

Tesla’s FSD or Full Self-Driving is an advanced driver assistance system that the company opened to a small set of owners to test on public roads. While it can handle some driving tasks, it does not make it completely ‘self-driving’.

Drivers testing the new update reported problems with the vehicle safety systems, noting that their cars braked unexpectedly and that certain safety features completely shut off.

If the automatic emergency braking system unexpectedly activates while driving, it could raise the risk of a rear-end collision. Tesla added that it was not aware of any crashes or injuries due to the issue.

Tesla said the issue was caused by a software communication issue between two onboard chips that could produce “negative object velocity detections when other vehicles are present”.

FSD Beta 10.2 was announced on October 7 for select Tesla owners with ‘perfect 100/100 safety scores’ as tweeted by owner Elon Musk.

Tesla CEO Elon Musk speaks before unveiling the Model Y
Elon Musk maintains that Tesla’s cars are less prone to accidents. (Credits: AP)

The plan was to see how the beta version performed before gradually rolling out to Tesla owners with safety scores of 99 and lower.

However, the release was delayed by three days due to ‘a few last-minute concerns’ over the build. Tesla managed to fix it after which versions 10.2 and 10.3 were rolled out over the next few days to owners with safety scores of 99 and 100 by October 15.

Less than ten days later, Musk tweeted that the 10.3 version was experiencing some issues with left turns at traffic lights and that they would switch to the 10.2 version temporarily. 

‘This is to be expected with beta software. It is impossible to test all hardware configs in all conditions with internal QA, hence public beta.’ said Musk in the same tweet thread.

This is the third recall issued by Tesla this year following one in February when 135,000 vehicles were recalled over faulty touchscreen displays causing safety issues. In June, nearly 6,000 Teslas were recalled over potentially loose brake caliper bolts.

Tesla is known to be at odds with the NHTSA which had opened a formal safety probe into the company after a series of 12 crashes involving Tesla models operating on Autopilot mode that had resulted in one death.

Tesla seems to have given into the NHTSA’s pressure to recall following concerns over software updates made to its Autopilot driver-assistance system to improve the vehicles’ ability to detect emergency vehicles. 

In September five police officers in Texas sued Tesla after a driver crashed his Tesla Model X into the back of two parked police cruisers at 112kph, injuring them and a police dog.

Standard Teslas operate with Autopilot, a driver-assistance system that does not enable autonomous driving. It is known to lack safeguards to ensure that drivers remain in control.

Autopilot crashes have been responsible for 10 deaths since 2016, according to data from the NHTSA but the company maintains that it is safer than normal cars. 

The improved FSD package costs $10,000 or $199 per month in the United States, available to a select number of people.

FSD is still Level 2 in self-driving auto technology and is not approved by US officials. It still requires a driver behind the wheel ready to take over.

Level 5 is the height of autonomous driving technology and in July 2020, Musk optimistically said that Tesla was ‘very close’ to achieving it. This would eliminate the need for human drivers but the company still has a long way to go.

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