Tesla recalls Autopilot software in 2 million vehicles

Tesla recalled more than two million vehicles on Tuesday, agreeing to fix its software to ensure drivers stay focused on the road while using its Autopilot system.

The withdrawal by Tesla, the world’s dominant maker of electric vehicles, is the fourth in two years and the most significant to date. That includes nearly all cars the company sells in the U.S., including its most popular Model Y sport-utility vehicle.

The recall follows an investigation into Autopilot that the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration launched in August 2021 after a series of accidents involving the technology. Autopilot is designed to automatically steer, brake and accelerate vehicles on highways. With its latest recall, Tesla made it clear it disagreed with the agency’s assessment of the system. The regulator said its investigation would continue.

“It’s critical that NHTSA keeps this investigation open to see if the changes actually reduce risks,” said Matthew Wansley, a professor at the Cardoso School of Law in New York who specializes in emerging automotive technologies.

The investigation is a prime example of the widespread push and pull among government regulators and a wide range of companies developing technologies that allow vehicles to drive themselves under certain circumstances.

In October, California regulators ordered General Motors subsidiary Cruise to end its driverless taxi service in San Francisco after a series of traffic accidents, including one in which a Cruise car dragged a pedestrian 20 feet. Consequently, the company has suspended its operations across the country.

Tesla’s latest Autopilot update will add new, more important visual alerts and checks to the Autosteer function that’s part of Autopilot. There may be an “increased risk of accident”. Security Administration saidWhen Autosteer is engaged and drivers “do not maintain responsibility for vehicle operation.”

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The company said it began investigating 11 incidents involving Tesla vehicles powered by Autosteer in August 2021. A series of meetings took place between the agency and Tesla, and the company decided to voluntarily recall this month.

Tesla’s latest recall does not end the agency’s investigation, which is now in its third year. A letter to Tesla From Security Administration.

“Automated technology holds great promise for improving safety, but only when used responsibly,” the company said in a statement to The New York Times. “Today’s action is an example of improving automated systems by prioritizing safety. “

Tesla Chief Executive Elon Musk did not respond to a request for comment.

During its investigation, the safety agency said it reviewed 956 accidents involving Autopilot before focusing on 322, including frontal collisions and situations where Autopilot was inadvertently engaged.

Tesla began providing wireless software updates to some vehicles this week, safety officials said. Rest of the vehicles will receive the updates later and all the updates will be given free to the owners of the cars.

The update will add controls and alerts to AutoSteer. Depending on the hardware in the car, some upgraded vehicles will have more prominent visual warnings and additional checks when using Autosteer. This feature will also be suspended if drivers repeatedly fail to use it responsibly.

Letters notifying Tesla owners of the renewal are expected to be sent in February.

Tesla’s recall this week is the latest in a series of events that have brought the automaker and its software under scrutiny. In October, a California jury found that the company’s driver-assistance software was not at fault in a crash that killed a Tesla owner and injured two passengers.

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The company also faced a series of recalls. In May, China ordered Tesla to recall 1.1 million vehicles, citing problems with the acceleration and braking systems of some models produced in China and overseas.

A few months ago, Tesla recalled more than 362,000 cars equipped with its fully self-driving-assistance system, a technology more advanced than Autopilot, after government regulators found it increased the risk of crashes. With full self-driving, Tesla seeks to extend Autopilot beyond highways to city streets.

The more advanced system allows vehicles to travel above legal speed limits and through intersections in an “illegal and unpredictable manner,” safety officials said.

In early 2022, Tesla recalled 54,000 cars equipped with its fully self-driving software, disabling a feature that allows vehicles to drive slowly through intersections without making necessary stops under certain conditions.

Tesla sells fully self-driving separately from Autopilot. But both services are supported by similar technologies. In the past, drivers who didn’t purchase a more advanced system were still able to use Autopilot on roads that weren’t freeways.

The company’s latest recall explains that drivers will be warned when using Autopilot outside of highways where the technology works. But it’s unclear whether they’ll still be allowed to use the technology in these situations.

“NHTSA has forced Tesla to focus on the right issues,” said Mr. Wansley said. “But it all depends on the details.”

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