Tesla Recalls Over 360,000 Vehicles Due to Safety Concerns with Full Self-Driving Functionality
Tesla has issued a recall for Full Self-Driving (FSD) software, an advanced driver-assistance system (ADAS) that has raised concerns about its safety, especially around intersections. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s (NHTSA) website, the recall affects as many as 362,758 Tesla vehicles from 2016 to 2023, including Model S, Model X, Model 3, and Model Y that are equipped with FSD Beta software or those pending installation.
The recall was issued after the NHTSA found that Tesla’s Autosteer on City Streets feature led to an unreasonable risk to motor vehicle safety based on insufficient adherence to traffic safety laws. Tesla will fix the issue by releasing an over-the-air software update, free of charge, to its customers.
Tesla’s FSD function includes a number of automated driving features that require the driver to be ready to take control of the vehicle at all times, such as the parking feature Summon, Navigate on Autopilot, and recognition and reaction to traffic lights and stop signs. The FSD Beta system may cause the vehicle to act unsafe around intersections, such as traveling straight through an intersection while in a turn-only lane, entering a stop sign-controlled intersection without coming to a complete stop, or proceeding into an intersection during a steady yellow traffic signal without due caution. The system may also respond insufficiently to changes in posted speed limits or not adequately account for the driver’s adjustment of the vehicle’s speed to exceed posted speed limits.
NHTSA contacted Tesla on January 25 to discuss potential concerns related to certain operational characteristics of FSD Beta in four specific roadway environments. Tesla met with the agency to discuss its proposed over-the-air improvements in response. However, the recall does not address the full scope of the NHTSA’s EA22-002 investigation into Tesla’s Autopilot and associated vehicle systems, which remains open and active.
FSD beta software, from what its name implies and Musk’s promises around its capabilities, to its rollout and safety concerns, has been controversial. It has also attracted scrutiny from regulators. In January, Tesla disclosed that the U.S. Department of Justice requested documents related to its branded Full Self-Driving and Autopilot ADAS.
Tesla’s recall of its FSD software highlights the need for automakers to be very explicit about the capabilities and limitation of their autonomous driving technology. While FSD and similar systems may offer many benefits, such as improved safety and convenience for drivers, there are still significant challenges that need to be addressed before these systems can be fully trusted on public roads.
Can a Tesla drive itself?
The company’s current line of vehicles and featured ADAS software have Level 2 autonomy, which falls in the middle of the 6 levels of driving automation, as defined by the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) and Department of Transportation (DOT).
Tesla vehicles come standard with Autopilot, a company-branded ADAS – meaning the vehicle can perform steering and navigation. In short, a Tesla vehicle can drive itself. Drivers, however, must monitor all vehicle functions and take control of the vehicle at any time.
For an additional $15,000 US, Tesla owners can buy FSD, a feature that CEO Elon Musk has promised since 2020, and said will one day deliver full autonomous driving capabilities. Tesla vehicles are not self-driving.
There have been several reports of incidents related to Autopilot and FSD, which suggest that the functionality does not against Musk’s claims. Many drivers are overconfident of the ADAS functions, or are unaware of their limitations and the hazards they present. .
Some major auto manufacturers are beginning to implement Level 3 autonomy, which enables vehicles to perform most driving tasks. The driver, as in the Level 2 requirements, must be prepared to take control of the vehicle.
The final release of FSD is imminent, but Tesla vehicles will still be classified as Level 2 autonomy by regulators, as they establish the criteria for what qualifies a vehicle as capable of full self-driving. No matter what Musk claims, Tesla will have to prove to regulators that its vehicles are truly full self-driving cable, something he says “which is out of our control.”
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