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Tesla Recalls 2 Million+ Cars with Autopilot; OTA Update Will Provide a Fix

Calling it "Autopilot" is misleading, some experts say

Tesla Model Y
  • Tesla is recalling more than 2 million vehicles in the U.S.
  • Affected vehicles will receive an over-the-air software update.
  • The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration issued the recall alert on December 12.

After a two-year investigation into Tesla’s Autopilot system by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the agency has announced a massive recall of more than 2 million Tesla vehicles in the U.S. The recall affects model years 2012-23 across the lineup and requires an over-the-air update to the cars’ software systems to provide a fix. The NHTSA report is startling, especially the statistic for its estimated percentage of cars with the defect — a whopping 100%. That means every car recalled is affected by the problem.

According to NBC News, the NHTSA started investigating in August of 2021 after 11 incidents involving Tesla’s Autosteer were reported. That’s just the tip of the proverbial iceberg, however, as the agency reviewed nearly 1,000 crashes in which Autopilot was allegedly involved.

While Tesla has reportedly cooperated with the NHTSA in the investigation, company spokespeople remain steadfast in their defense of the Autopilot feature. On X (formerly Twitter) Monday, Tesla insisted its safety metrics are “emphatically stronger when Autopilot is engaged than when not engaged.”


Tesla Model S

So far, the safety agency and others are unconvinced. By calling it “Autopilot,” some users may expect the car to drive for them without any intervention, say some safety experts. Back in May, Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg noted the misnomer, as a Tesla vehicle can’t drive itself. Myriad problematic videos are a few keystrokes away; Google “youtube tesla autopilot stunt” to find evidence of drivers sleeping on the road or sitting in the back seat as if they have an invisible chauffeur.

To avoid misuse of the system, the recall is designed to at least issue more warnings and safeguards for the driver, and even more so, for the people in their path.

“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,” the NHTSA said in describing the fix.

Tesla has already rolled out the update to some of its vehicles in production starting December 7, with more models slated to get the update in the future.

Edmunds says

There are no self-driving cars. Unfortunately, there are too many people testing the outer limits of these systems and putting others in danger. This software update will not solve that problem but hopefully will increase awareness.