Tesla has recalled nearly all the cars it sells in the U.S. to make its Autopilot hands-free driving system safer and comply with the findings of a long-running NHTSA investigation, Tesla disclosed Tuesday.
The NHTSA cited Autosteer in particular, which enables hands-free driving for long stretches with limited checks on driver engagement, unlike limited hands-free driving systems such as GM’s Super Cruise and Ford’s Blue Cruise, among others. The NHTSA found that the controls may not be “sufficient to prevent driver misuse” of the Level 2 semi-autonomous drive system.
The recall encompasses 2,031,220 electric cars made by the Texas-based electric automaker, and the scope spans more than a decade. The recall covers the following vehicles:
2012-2023 Tesla Model S
2016-2023 Tesla Model X
2017-2023 Tesla Model 3
2020-2023 Tesla Model Y
Based on the SAE, Level 2 means that the driver still has to operate the vehicle. The NHTSA found that the safety mechanisms to ensure the driver is “engaged in continuous and sustained responsibility for the vehicle’s operation” are not good enough. Specifically, the driver might not notice when Autosteer is canceled or disengaged, and the driver may not recognize that it’s operating with limited functionality.
Autosteer is a subset of the package of features that make up Autopilot, along with adaptive cruise control, or what Tesla brands “Traffic-Aware Cruise Control.” A small steering wheel icon in the display can turn from gray to blue when activated. It can also have audible and visual alerts.
Tesla Autopilot suite of features – with version 7.0 update
Fortunately for Tesla owners, the recall fix has been and will continue to be deployed via an over-the-air software update. The software version is 2023.44.30. The update will include more prominent alerts and the feature could be suspended from use if the driver repeatedly fails to demonstrate driving responsibility with the Autosteer engaged.
“The remedy will incorporate additional controls and alerts to those already existing on affected vehicles to further encourage the driver to adhere to their continuous driving responsibility whenever Autosteer is engaged, which includes keeping their hands on the steering wheel and paying attention to the roadway,” Tesla said in the NHTSA filing.
The NHTSA has scrutinized Tesla more closely in recent years after a spate of high-profile crashes and fatalities suspected to involve Autopilot, as well as for other issues. In August, 2021, the NHTSA investigated Tesla after 11 crashes with stationary first responder vehicles were reported while Autosteer was in use. In subsequent meetings between Tesla and the NHTSA, Tesla addressed the NHTSA’s concerns with software updates, even though it did not concur with the agency’s findings.
The software update will be completed under warranty, so Tesla will not provide any reimbursement. Those models currently in production already received the software update. For more info, contact Tesla customer service at 1-877-798-3752 or visit Tesla’s recall page.