Tesla recalls 2 million vehicles

FILE PHOTO: Tesla China-made Model 3 vehicles are seen during a delivery event at its factory in Shanghai, China January 7, 2020. REUTERS/Aly Song

Tesla is embarking on its most extensive recall ever, encompassing over 2 million vehicles, following a determination by the top US auto-safety regulator that its Autopilot driver-assistance system lacks sufficient safeguards against misuse.

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This significant move comes as a result of a prolonged defect investigation by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), which intends to keep the inquiry open to oversee the effectiveness of Tesla’s corrective measures. According to an NHTSA spokesperson, the investigation revealed shortcomings in Tesla’s methods to keep drivers engaged, prompting the recall.

In a statement, NHTSA emphasized the potential of automated technology to enhance safety but underscored the importance of responsible deployment. The action taken is viewed as an example of enhancing automated systems by prioritizing safety.

Tesla, in its recall report, anticipates deploying over-the-air software to introduce additional controls and alerts on or shortly after December 12. However, this announcement led to a 1.9% decline in Tesla’s shares during New York trading hours.

This marks the second recall this year related to Tesla’s automated-driving systems, which have faced heightened scrutiny following numerous crashes, some resulting in fatalities. Despite CEO Elon Musk’s long-standing predictions of imminent complete autonomy, both Autopilot and the beta features marketed as Full Self-Driving require a fully attentive driver with hands on the wheel.

Autopilot, a standard feature on Teslas, makes the recall relevant to the majority of the company’s vehicles on US roads. Tesla utilizes multiple cameras to monitor surroundings, maintain pace with traffic, and assist drivers in staying within marked lanes.

The recall includes a suite of features known as FSD Beta, marketed since late 2016. This suite was previously recalled in February due to concerns raised by NHTSA about Teslas using the system in unpredictable and unlawful ways.

NHTSA initially conducted a defect investigation of Autopilot after a fatal crash in 2016, ultimately clearing the system early the following year. Ongoing defect probes initiated in August 2021 and February 2022 were prompted by Teslas crashing into first-responder vehicles and sudden braking on highways. The agency has opened over 50 special crash investigations involving Tesla cars suspected to be linked to Autopilot, with an increased pace under the Biden administration.

Regulatory scrutiny extends beyond NHTSA, with Tesla disclosing requests for documents from the Justice Department related to Autopilot and FSD Beta in January. Additionally, Bloomberg reported that the Securities and Exchange Commission is investigating Elon Musk’s role in shaping Tesla’s self-driving claims.