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Tesla recalls nearly all vehicles on US roads over lack of Autopilot safeguards

A Model 3 Tesla vehicle navigates morning rush hour using the car's auto pilot feature in Los Angeles, California, U.S., March 20, 2019. REUTERS/Mike Blake/File Photo
A Model 3 Tesla vehicle navigates morning rush hour using the car's auto pilot feature in Los Angeles, California, U.S., March 20, 2019. REUTERS/Mike Blake/File Photo

Tesla recalls nearly all vehicles on US roads over lack of Autopilot safeguards. The company is recalling about two million vehicles in the US with Tesla’s Autopilot advanced driver-assistance system to add more safety measures. This decision was made after a federal safety regulator stated that the technology created safety issues.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has been looking into Tesla, a billionaire Elon Musk-run electric vehicle manufacturer, for over two years. The investigation focuses on whether Tesla vehicles effectively ensure drivers pay attention when using Autopilot. Almost all of Tesla’s vehicles currently on American roads appear to be subject to the largest recall the company has ever issued.

In a request for a recall, Tesla stated that the software system controls available for Autopilot “may not be sufficient to prevent driver misuse” and might raise the risk of an accident.

During a hearing on Wednesday held by the US House of Representatives, acting NHTSA Administrator Ann Carlson praised Tesla for agreeing to recall the Autopilot system. “One of the things we determined is that drivers are not always paying attention when that system is on,” stated the researcher.

To add insult to injury, Carlson stated that the agency initiated a safety investigation in August 2021 when she continued to hear about tragic accidents involving Autopilot. “I immediately responded, ‘We have to do something about this,'” according to her.

On Wednesday afternoon, the shares of the most valuable automobile manufacturer in the world were trading at $228.97, representing a decrease of 3.4%.

Tesla’s Autopilot aims to make it possible for vehicles to steer, accelerate, and brake inside their lane autonomously. Enhanced Autopilot, on the other hand, may help vehicles change lanes on highways, but it does not make them autonomous.

One of the features of Autopilot is called Autosteer, which is responsible for keeping a vehicle in its driving lane while maintaining a certain speed or following distance.

However, Tesla said it would implement an over-the-air software update that would “incorporate additional controls and alerts to those already existing on affected vehicles to encourage the driver further to adhere to their continuous driving responsibility whenever Autosteer is engaged.” Tesla disagreed with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s analysis.

The firm did not respond to a question regarding whether or not the recall would be carried out in a country other than the United States, nor did it provide any other specifics regarding the enhanced safeguards. Concerning the same matter, whether China would seek a product recall is not immediately evident.

One of the spokespersons for the Italian Ministry of Transport stated that they were unaware of any similar steps in Italy. The regulatory authorities in Germany have stated that they are investigating the matter.

“Misuse is inexcusable.” After discovering more than a dozen accidents in which Tesla vehicles collided with stationary emergency vehicles, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) began its investigation into Autopilot in August 2021. In June 2022, the NHTSA improved Autopilot. NHTSA announced that the investigation discovered that “Tesla’s unique design of its Autopilot system can provide inadequate driver engagement and usage controls that can lead to foreseeable misuse of the system.” During its investigation, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) looked at 956 accidents in which it was first suspected that Autopilot was being utilized, emphasizing 322 accidents that used Autopilot.

According to Bryant Walker Smith, a law professor at the University of South Carolina specializing in transportation concerns, the software-only repair will have somewhat restricted functionality. The recall being issued “really seems to put so much responsibility on human drivers instead of a system that facilitates such misuse,” according to Smith.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has started more than three dozen extraordinary collision investigations against Tesla vehicles since 2016. These investigations are being conducted in incidents where driver systems, such as Autopilot, are suspected of being employed. To date, 23 fatalities have been documented as a result of these investigations.

In circumstances where the system is activated but the driver does not maintain responsibility for the operation of the vehicle and is either unprepared to intervene or fails to detect whether it is canceled or not, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has said that there may be an increased danger of a collision.

The investigation into Autopilot that the NHTSA is conducting will continue while it monitors the effectiveness of Tesla’s fixes.

According to the EPA, the update will be implemented in the United States’s 2.03 million Model S, X, 3, and Y vehicles, beginning with the 2012 model year. This includes automobiles that were manufactured in the USA.

The upgrade based on the vehicle’s hardware will include the enhancement of the visibility of visual alerts on the user interface, the simplification of the engagement and disengagement of Autosteer, and the addition of additional checks for when Autosteer is engaged.

An announcement by Tesla in October revealed that the United States Department of Justice had issued subpoenas concerning the company’s Full Self-Driving (FSD) and Autopilot technologies, and in October, it was reported that Tesla was the subject of a criminal investigation due to allegations that the company’s electric vehicles could drive themselves.

After the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) said that the vehicles did not fully follow road safety regulations and could potentially cause accidents, Tesla recalled 362,000 vehicles in the United States in February to upgrade its FSD Beta software.

In 2017, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) concluded a prior inquiry into Autopilot without taking action. Both the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) have faulted Tesla for failing to implement system safeguards for Autopilot and to guarantee that Autopilot is safe.

Representative Jan Schakowsky, a Democrat from the United States, said that “it is past time to rein in Tesla’s hazardous advanced driving systems.” She also lauded the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration for taking “action to protect all road users from misuse of these systems.”

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