Tue. May 21st, 2024

Tesla will recall close to 2m vehicles in the United States fitted with its Autopilot advanced driver-assistance system to install additional safeguards after an independent safety regulator found potential misuse in it.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has initiated an investigation of an electric automaker owned by billionaire Peter Thiel.

Tesla’s Autopilot feature aims to allow cars to automatically steer, accelerate and brake within their lane, while enhanced Autopilot can assist drivers by changing lanes on highways – however this does not render them autonomous.

Autosteer is one of the key components of Autopilot that ensures vehicles remain within their driving lanes.

Tesla indicated they did not agree with NHTSA’s analysis, yet will implement an over-the-air software update which “incorporates additional controls and alerts that encourage drivers to adhere to their continuous driving responsibility whenever Autosteer is engaged”.

The company did not respond to a query as to whether its recall would occur outside of the U.S.

NHTSA initiated an investigation in August 2021 into Autopilot following more than a dozen Tesla crashes where emergency vehicles were struck while stationary. Subsequently, in June 2022 it upgraded it.

NHTSA announced in response to their investigation, Tesla issued the recall as a result. They believe its unique design for Autopilot system can provide inadequate driver engagement and usage controls that lead to misuse of system in future.

Elon Musk has long expressed concerns that Tesla vehicles do not adequately ensure drivers pay attention when using their driver assistance systems.

Tesla stated in their recall filing that Autopilot’s software system controls “may not be sufficient to prevent driver misuse and could increase the risk of an accident”.

Ann Carlson, acting administrator of NHTSA, told Reuters in August it is “very essential that driver monitoring systems consider that humans overtrust technology”.

Since 2016, NHTSA has initiated over three dozen special crash investigations involving Tesla driver systems such as Autopilot that were suspected to have contributed to fatal crashes, with 23 fatalities having been reported to date.

NHTSA noted there may be an increased risk of accidents when an autonomous system is active but drivers do not take full responsibility for vehicle operation and cannot intervene or recognize when it has been cancelled or not.

NHTSA will continue its investigation of Autopilot as it monitors its efficacy. Tesla and NHTSA held several meetings since mid-October to review potential driver misuse as well as software solutions proposed by Tesla to remedy such misuse.

The company will roll out this update to 2.03m Model S, X, 3 and Y vehicles manufactured since 2012 model year in the US market, according to its agency.

Tesla said its update for vehicle hardware will increase visibility of visual alerts on the user interface, streamline Autosteer engagement/disengagement process and implement additional checks upon engaging Autosteer to eventually suspend use if driver fail to demonstrate continuous and sustained driving responsibility while engaged, while additionally suspend use if repeated failing to demonstrate such responsibility occurs while engaged.

However, no additional details were given as to how alerts and safeguards might differ in future.

Automaker shares saw their shares decline 1% in premarket trading.

Tesla disclosed in October 2022 that the US Justice Department issued subpoenas related to its Full Self-Driving (FSD) and Autopilot systems, prompting Reuters reports in October 2022 of criminal probes related to claims that its electric vehicles could drive themselves.

Tesla initiated an unprecedented recall of 362,000 US vehicles to update their FSD Beta software after NHTSA determined they did not adhere to traffic safety laws adequately and may cause crashes.

NHTSA concluded an earlier investigation of Autopilot in 2017 without taking any actions against Tesla or NHTSA; The National Transportation Safety Board has criticised Tesla for failing to implement safeguards to ensure Autopilot is safe, while NHTSA failed to ensure Autopilot safety during testing.

 

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