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Widespread confusion about what Tesla’s safety recall means for its customers

Tesla Model S Autopilot

Pity the poor souls who get their “news” from headlines alone, seldom clicking through to read the articles that lie beneath—what a warped view of the world they must have. As the mainstream media announced that Tesla has recalled almost all of its vehicles, headline-grazers must have envisioned two million enraged Tesla owners having to bring their vehicles to mobbed service centers—what a financial and PR disaster for the company! Some may even have shorted the company’s stock on the “news.” (Some hot-stock-tip sites were predicting a big drop for TSLA.)

In fact, the subject of the “recall” is Tesla’s controversial Autopilot system. In response to a judgement by NHTSA, the company will add new safeguards to the system to encourage drivers to pay more attention. It will do so via an over-the-air software update. No owners will need to bring their vehicles anywhere, or do anything beyond pressing a couple of “OK” buttons, but in the automotive safety world, this is technically a “recall.”

Tesla says: “At no cost to customers, affected vehicles will receive an over-the-air software remedy, which is expected to begin deploying to certain affected vehicles on or shortly after December 12, 2023, with software version 2023.44.30. Remaining affected vehicles will receive an over-the-air software remedy at a later date. 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.”

NHTSA has been investigating Tesla’s Autopilot features for two years, in response to a spate of collisions involving first-responder vehicles parked alongside roadways, and now the agency has required Tesla to make certain changes to Autopilot.

Tesla drivers are going to see more alerts and warnings (“nags” as Autopilot fans call them) when using the Autosteer feature. There will be more visual alerts on the user interface, there will be additional checks upon engaging Autosteer, and dozy drivers will face “eventual suspension from Autosteer use if the driver repeatedly fails to demonstrate continuous and sustained driving responsibility while the feature is engaged,” Tesla said.

The update will affect some 2.03 million of the company’s S3XY vehicles in the US, and 193,000 in Canada. We don’t know yet if vehicles in other markets will be affected.

Naturally, Tesla said it did not agree with NHTSA’s analysis, but will comply. NHTSA said its investigation will remain open as it monitors Tesla’s remedies.

Sources: Electrek, Reuters, The Guardian

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