NHTSA reins in Tesla’s “Autosteer” system, recalls 2 million cars

2021 Tesla Model S Plaid interior recall autopilot

On Tuesday, December 12, the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA) issued a recall affecting over two million Teslas, all of which must receive updates to their automated-driving (Autopilot, in Tesla lingo) software. New programming from Tesla is intended to make streets safer for emergency vehicles, as NHTSA investigated “eleven incidents involving stationary first-responder vehicles and Tesla vehicles that were operating with Autosteer engaged.”

The new software will also force drivers to pay more attention to the road, possibly by closing the loophole that lets drivers skirt around Tesla’s safeguards, which are designed to make the driver keep their hands on the steering wheel (or yoke).

The recall will be addressed via an over-the-air software update and will not require a trip to a Tesla service department. NHTSA says the upgrade will change how Teslas visually alert drivers of their inactivity, while “simplifying engagement and disengagement of Autosteer.” There are further checks on Autosteer engagement “while using the feature outside of controlled access highways and when approaching traffic controls.”

Going forward, Autosteer can be permanently removed if the Tesla driver “repeatedly fails to demonstrate continuous and sustained driving responsibility while the feature is engaged.” While the two million affected Teslas do not all have the same version of Autopilot, all are equipped with Tesla’s Autosteer system. NHTSA will be notifying owners of this recall via mail in February, but the implementation is already in progress thanks to over-the air updates.




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    I heard the same thing when the Exxon Valdez spilled all of that oil in the sea back in the day. People remarked “its about danged time” when they put more safety protocols in place afterwards. But the truth is that we will not, or cannot have progress without allowing companies to have some leeway (they say you cant have an omelet without breaking some eggs) as they mature the feature.

    Teslas autosteer is excellent, and it has prevented thousands of accidents (documented) well past the handful of missteps reported here (they never report on the positives do they). No it is not yet perfect, but think of this… If the autosteer reduces possible accidents by 80% (as history has shown), is that not better than no reduction at all? I will take a 80% reduction – over none – any day of the week.

    Breaking a few eggs for breakfast (which, by-the-way, is what we buy them for) is hardly tantamount to risking people’s lives on the highway or destroying thousands of wild animals. And the Exxon-Valdez incident didn’t happen due to a lack of safety protocols. The investigation placed the blame squarely on an incompetent crew and a drunk captain. In short, Exxon ignored safety protocols and caused the damage purely of their own volition.
    I’m sorry, but I can’t agree that we need to “have progress” by making innocent drivers and pedestrians our guinea pigs to refine machines and software to acceptable performance. In fact, I have some serious reservations as to how to define all of this as “progress” in the first place. Just my opinion, and you’re entitled to yours, of course.

    Considering they altered video to misrepresent a safety feature, there should be criminal charges. Thier actions in misleading the consumer on this feature is far more serious than what VW did with diesels, and Tesla should be held accountable.

    Since it cost a considerable amount for that option that is now being cut back over the air, will Tesla be sending a refund to its customers? Or “The check is in the mail”?

    All “auto-steer” vehicles (Tesla or no)–should have large warning lights mounted atop the car. Give the rest of us warning that danger is heading our way.

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