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Investigation Launched by US Authorities on Tesla’s Recall of 2 Million Vehicles Due to Autopilot Concerns

Investigation Launched by US Authorities on Tesla’s Recall of 2 Million Vehicles Due to Autopilot Concerns

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has launched an investigation into Tesla’s recall of over 2 million vehicles, which was announced in December. The recall was intended to install new Autopilot safeguards following a series of crashes. The NHTSA opened the probe after receiving reports of 20 crashes involving vehicles that had the new Autopilot software updates installed.

This investigation comes at a critical time for Tesla, as CEO Elon Musk is pushing for full self-driving capabilities. The company is offering a month of free trials for its Autopilot system and plans to unveil its robotaxi on August 8th. However, regulatory scrutiny of the Autopilot system is growing, with concerns about its safety and effectiveness.

The NHTSA’s investigation also revealed that the agency had closed a three-year defect investigation into Autopilot. The investigation found evidence that Tesla’s weak driver engagement system was not appropriate for Autopilot’s permissive operating capabilities, resulting in a critical safety gap. During the investigation, the NHTSA identified at least 13 Tesla crashes involving at least one death and numerous serious injuries, where driver misuse of the system played a role.

One of the main concerns raised by the NHTSA is that Tesla’s recall allows drivers to easily reverse the software update. Although Tesla has issued additional software updates to address concerns, these updates have not been made part of the recall. This raises questions about the adequacy of the recall and whether it will truly address the safety issues associated with Autopilot.

The recall investigation covers various Tesla models, including the Y, X, S, 3, and Cybertruck vehicles produced between 2012 and 2024. However, there are gaps in Tesla’s telematic data reporting on crashes involving Autopilot. The automaker primarily relies on data from crashes involving airbag deployments, which only account for about one-fifth of police-reported crashes. This limited data may hinder the NHTSA’s ability to fully assess the safety of Tesla’s Autopilot system.

In response to these concerns, U.S. senators Ed Markey and Richard Blumenthal have called on the NHTSA to prevent Tesla from allowing the use of Autopilot on roads where it is not intended. They urge the agency to take all necessary actions to prevent these vehicles from endangering lives.

Furthermore, the NHTSA has raised concerns about the name “Autopilot” itself, suggesting that it may lead drivers to believe that the automation has greater capabilities than it actually does. This could result in drivers overly trusting the system and not being fully attentive while using it.

Despite these investigations and concerns, Tesla maintains that Autopilot does not make vehicles self-driving and should only be used with a fully attentive driver who is prepared to take over and has hands on the steering wheel. The company has made software updates to enhance driver controls and alerts, but critics argue that these updates do not adequately address the safety concerns raised by the NHTSA.

This is not the first time Tesla has faced scrutiny over its Autopilot system. Since 2016, the NHTSA has opened more than 40 special crash investigations involving Tesla vehicles and driver systems like Autopilot. To date, there have been 23 crash deaths reported in these cases.

In conclusion, Tesla’s recall of over 2 million vehicles to install new Autopilot safeguards is under investigation by the NHTSA. The agency has concerns about the adequacy of the recall and the safety of Tesla’s Autopilot system. The investigation comes at a critical time for Tesla as it seeks to expand its autonomous driving capabilities. However, regulatory scrutiny and concerns about the system’s safety and effectiveness continue to grow.

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