New York (CNN) Tesla is recalling all 363,000 U.S. vehicles with its so-called “Full Self Driving” driver assist software over safety concerns, another blow to the feature that is central to the automaker’s business model.
“Fully self-driving”, as it stands today, navigates local roads with steering, braking and acceleration, but requires a human driver willing to take control at any time as the system makes errors of judgement. NHTSA said there is a risk that the problems with FSD could break traffic laws at some intersections “before some drivers can intervene.”
“The FSD Beta system can cause the vehicle to behave unsafely around intersections, such as driving straight through an intersection while in an exit-only lane, entering a stop sign-controlled intersection without coming to a complete stop , or entering an intersection during a solid yellow traffic light without due caution,” said the recall notice, posted on the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration website.
Tesla will attempt to fix the $15,000 FSD feature through an over-the-air software update, the notice said. Although Tesla CEO Elon Musk has not yet commented on the nature or extent of the problem, he says tweeted that “the word “recall” for an over-the-air software update is anachronistic and just plain wrong!” But NHTSA said in a statement that “manufacturers should initiate a recall for any repair, including a software update, that addresses an unreasonable risk to safety.”
The federal agency said it “will continue to monitor the recalls for effectiveness.”
The message states that the issues are present in all cars with the current version of the FSD software, which is available on all four Tesla models, the Model S, Model X, Model 3 and Model Y.
It also said that Tesla has identified 18 incident reports received between May 8, 2019 and September 12, 2022 that may be related to the circumstances described above. It said Tesla is not aware of any injuries or deaths caused in those incidents. NHTSA itself has identified at least 273 accidents involving one of Tesla’s driver assistance systems.
A difficult development
FSD is considered key to the company’s basic business plan, given the premiums drivers pay for its features and its ability to attract buyers to choose Tesla cars in the first place. Tesla and Musk have repeatedly argued that FSD, even in its current “beta” form, is safer than cars driven solely by humans. He told investors last month that Tesla has collected data from about 100 million miles of drivers using FSD off highways.
“Our published data demonstrates that improvement in safety,” he said. “It’s very clear. So we wouldn’t have released the FSD Beta if the security metrics weren’t excellent.”
But other safety experts have questioned the validity of Tesla’s safety claims. There have been high profile accidents involving Tesla cars using FSD or its more rudimentary predecessor known as “Autopilot”. Some of those accidents resulted in deaths.
NHTSA is also exploring the more rudimentary precursor to “fully self-driving,” Autopilot. That technology combines lane assist with adaptive cruise control to keep a car in one lane on a highway, contrary to the promise of “fully self-driving,” which Tesla says it wants to one day be able to operate a vehicle without human control. surveillance on a city street.
While “this recall seeks to address a specific set of concerns identified by the agency,” NHTSA’s statement said this recall does not address previous investigations. “Accordingly, the agency’s investigation into Tesla’s Autopilot and associated vehicle systems remains open and active.”
Last month, Tesla disclosed in the company’s annual financial report that it has “received requests from the U.S. Department of Justice for documents related to Tesla’s Autopilot and FSD features.”
Key to Tesla’s future
Musk has repeatedly predicted that the company would soon build a truly self-driving car, but has also repeatedly pushed back its own self-imposed deadlines. Tesla owners filed a class action lawsuit over the predictions and missed deadlines, which is still pending.
“Mere failure to achieve an ambitious long-term goal is not fraud,” Tesla’s lawyers wrote in a Nov. 28 lawsuit, asking for the lawsuit to be dismissed.
Musk has said for years that the price of “fully self-driving” would rise periodically as it develops and gets closer to regulatory approval. He tweeted in May 2020 that when “fully self-driving” had that approval, the feature would “probably” be worth more than “$100,000.” But during a call to investors in July 2021, Musk said it was “debatable” that the feature was worth the $10,000 Tesla was charging at the time.
In September, when CNN Business spoke to 13 people who own cars with the “fully self-driving” beta version, the vast majority, 11 people, said they didn’t think it was worth $15,000.
Tesla seems nowhere near regulatory approval for “fully self-driving.” In August 2022, the California DMV said the name “fully self-driving” is “a misleading practice” and grounds for suspending or revoking Tesla’s license to sell vehicles in the state.
Tesla, which has disbanded its public relations staff and has not responded to press inquiries for several years, was not available for comment.
CNN’s Matt McFarland contributionadded to this report.
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