NHTSA Investigates Tesla's Autopilot Recall Remedy After 20 Crashes

NHTSA investigates Tesla's Autopilot recall, concerned about its effectiveness and driver monitoring. Outcome could significantly impact Autopilot's future.

Geeta Pillai
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NHTSA Investigates Tesla's Autopilot Recall Remedy After 20 Crashes

NHTSA Investigates Tesla's Autopilot Recall Remedy After 20 Crashes

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has launched an investigation into the effectiveness of Tesla's Autopilot recall remedy, which covers over 2 million vehicles in the US from 2012 to 2024. The recall was announced in December 2022 to address concerns about Tesla vehicles crashing into stopped emergency vehicles on the highway while using Autopilot. The 'fix' was an over-the-air software update, but Tesla did not agree with NHTSA's findings of improper driver monitoring leading to these accidents.

NHTSA has now opened a new investigation after identifying concerns about the effectiveness of the recall remedy, including post-remedy crash events and preliminary test results. The agency is also looking into why certain updates were not part of the recall or considered a remedy for the defect. NHTSA is particularly concerned about Tesla's statements that the remedy requires owners to opt-in and allows drivers to easily reverse it.

Why this matters: The investigation covers all Tesla vehicles in the US with Autopilot, which the article suggests may be an attempt by NHTSA to push Tesla further on driver attention monitoring and safety requirements for its advanced driver assistance system. The outcome of this investigation could have significant implications for the future of Tesla's Autopilot and the company's approach to driver safety.

The previous NHTSA investigation in 2021 reviewed hundreds of collisions and 13 fatalities allegedly involving Tesla's Autopilot and found that the name 'Autopilot' may lead drivers to believe the system has greater capabilities than it does. Experts have previously criticized the recall remedy as being "very vague" and not going far enough to prevent misuse or address the root causes of driver inattention.

NHTSA's probe comes after it closed its nearly three-year investigation into Autopilot, finding that Tesla's "weak driver engagement system was not appropriate for Autopilot's permissive operating capabilities" that result in a "critical safety gap. The agency also raised concerns about Tesla's Autopilot name "may lead drivers to believe that the automation has greater capabilities than it does and invite drivers to overly trust the automation."

The investigation covers Model Y, X, S, 3 and Cybertruck vehicles in the U.S. equipped with Autopilot produced between the 2012 and 2024 model years. NHTSA has identified at least 13 Tesla crashes involving one or more fatalities and many more involving serious injuries in which "foreseeable driver misuse of the system played an apparent role." The agency acknowledged that its probe may be incomplete due to gaps in Tesla's telemetry data.

This latest investigation underscores the intense scrutiny Tesla faces from federal regulators over its Autopilot system. NHTSA's findings suggest that the December 2022 recall update was likely inadequate, as more crashes linked to Autopilot continue to be reported. The agency is now evaluating the prominence and scope of Autopilot's controls to address misuse, confusion, and use in areas the system is not

Key Takeaways

  • NHTSA investigating effectiveness of Tesla's Autopilot recall remedy for crashes
  • Concerns about post-remedy crashes and Tesla's opt-in, reversible software update
  • Investigation covers all Tesla vehicles with Autopilot in the US (2012-2024)
  • Previous NHTSA probe found Autopilot name misleading, leading to driver misuse
  • New investigation may impact Tesla's Autopilot approach and safety requirements