Tesla Recalls Over 2 Million Cars To Fix Autopilot Safety Flaw

The recall applies to almost every Tesla sold in the US since Autopilot was launched in 2015.

Tesla’s hubris with its Autopilot assisted driving system has finally come to bite it (somewhat) in its backside, as it has been forced to recall over 2 million of its cars to better ensure that its drivers are paying attention when the feature is in use. 

Affecting Models Y, S, 3 and X produced between Oct. 5, 2012, and Dec. 7 of this year, this recall essentially applies to nearly all Teslas that were ever sold in the US. And while the fix for this issue will be done by way of an over-the-air software update, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) that is overseeing this remedial program still nevertheless refers to it as a recall. 

Based on the NHTSA documents regarding this recall, this new software update will include with it additional controls and alerts ‘to further encourage the driver to adhere to their continuous driving responsibility’. This software update will apparently also limit where the Autosteer function of Autopilot can be used.

“In certain circumstances when Autosteer is engaged, the prominence and scope of the feature’s controls may not be sufficient to prevent driver misuse of the SAE Level 2 advanced driver-assistance feature,” the recall documents state. “If the driver attempts to engage Autosteer when conditions are not met for engagement, the feature will alert the driver it is unavailable through visual and audible alerts, and Autosteer will not engage,” it further notes. 

The rather misleadingly-named Autopilot currently includes Autosteer and Traffic Aware Cruise Control functionality, with the former intended for use on limited access freeways when it’s not operating with the more sophisticated Autosteer on City Streets feature. “The additional controls will include, among others, increasing the prominence of visual alerts on the user interface, simplifying engagement and disengagement of Autosteer, additional checks upon engaging Autosteer,” says the recall notice’s description of the fix.

This recall — which incidentally is the second that the American automaker has made regarding its active driver suite just this year — comes after a two-year investigation by the NHTSA into a series of 956 crashes that occurred while the Autopilot feature was allegedly in use, with some of these incidents even leading to at least 17 fatalities. As a result of that investigation, Tesla has conceded that the system’s method of ensuring that drivers are paying attention can be inadequate and ‘may not be sufficient to prevent driver misuse’, which in turn lead to this particular round of recall.

“Automated technology holds great promise for improving safety but only when it is deployed responsibly”, the NHTSA wrote, adding it would continue to monitor the software once it was updated. The software update containing the patch was sent to owners of certain affected vehicles on Tuesday, with the rest getting it at a later date.

It currently remains to be seen if the Teslas in the rest of the world are to be affected by this recall, not to mention too whether the American automaker will finally alter the name of its rather-misleading Autopilot non-self driving feature. 

Joshua Chin

Automotive journalist. Professional work on and Personal writing found at Instagram: @driveeveryday

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