Self-driving fix for 2 million cars investigated by NHTSA

Tesla said in December 2023 that it would release safety software updates for Autopilot features after accidents. But more incidents prompted federal regulators to investigate whether the automaker had done enough.

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The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is investigating the adequacy of a Tesla recall of more than 2 million vehicles in December 2023 to update Autopilot features after several crashes.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration's (NHTSA) Office of Defect Investigation is opening an investigation after it identified 20 crashes involving Tesla vehicles with updated software, the agency said in a statement. Documents submitted on Friday.

After deploying the software updates, ODI “identified concerns arising from post-remediation crash events and preliminary NHTSA testing results for remedied vehicles,” the agency said in the filing.

The agency also closed a nearly three-year investigation analyzing 956 crashes involving Tesla vehicles through August 30, 2023. ODI said nearly half of the crashes (467) could have been avoided, but occurred due to “weak Tesla driver engagement system.” Not suitable for the autopilot's permissive operating capabilities.”

Crash test results: Only one in 10 SUVs received a 'good' rating in a crash test that was updated to reflect higher speeds.

In that investigation, the agency found at least 13 crashes “resulting in the death of one or more people and numerous other crashes involving serious injury in which perceived driver misuse of the system played a clear role.”

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Last week, a Tesla driven by someone with Tesla's Full Self-Driving feature reportedly engaged and killed a motorcyclist in Washington state. The feature isn't a full self-driving mode, but it does more than Autopilot — navigating turns and stopping at lights and signs — and still requires drivers to pay attention.

NHTSA: Tesla's Autopilot system has a 'critical safety gap'

Although they are often referred to as self-driving cars, Tesla cars actually have driver support features that make driving easier, but they are not completely automatic. Autopilot It includes using Tesla's Traffic-Aware cruise control system, which matches the speed of other traffic, and Autosteer, which helps keep the car within the lane but drivers are supposed to keep their hands on the wheel.

But federal regulators say drivers might expect their Teslas to do too much.

“The critical safety gap between drivers’ expectations of (Tesla’s Driver Assistance System) operating capabilities and the system’s actual capabilities… led to predictable misuse and avoidable accidents,” the agency said in the closed investigation report.

In those 467 crashes, the ODI said alert drivers should have been able to “respond to or mitigate the incident” in many cases. Other times, cars went off the road when Autosteer — Tesla's practical steering assistance feature — was “inadvertently disengaged by driver input,” or the features were used in “low traction conditions such as wet roads,” the agency said.

The new investigation “will evaluate the adequacy of (the December 2023 recall), including the importance and scope of Autopilot controls to address misuse, mode disorientation, or use in environments for which the system was not designed,” the agency said.

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Which Tesla vehicles have been recalled?

When the recall was announced in December, the recall included 2,031,220 vehicles: 2012-2023 model years. Models2016-2023 Model X2017-2023 Model 3 And 2020-2023 Model Y All vehicles are equipped with Tesla's Autosteer driver assistance feature.

In issuing the recall for December 2023, Tesla noted “In certain circumstances when the Autosteer feature is engaged, and the driver does not maintain personal responsibility for the operation of the vehicle and is unwilling to intervene when necessary or fails to recognize when Autosteer is canceled or not engaged, there may be an increased risk of a crash.”

The ODI investigation includes newer models and the Tesla Cybertruck as well.

Models included in the NHTSA investigation:

  • 2024 Tesla Cybertruck
  • 2017-2024 Tesla Model 3
  • 2021-2024 Tesla Model S
  • 2016-2024 Tesla Model
  • 2020-2024 Tesla Model Y

Motor direction: The 2024 Tesla Cybertruck undergoes off-road performance testing

The new investigation begins as Tesla recently announced a drop in first-quarter revenue and layoffs in Austin and the Bay Area. However, CEO Elon Musk remained optimistic about the company's self-driving technology and electric vehicles. The company is expected to unveil its robotaxi on August 8.

Reuters reported In October 2022, Tesla was under criminal investigation over its self-driving claims. Tesla said in October 2023 that the Justice Department had issued subpoenas related to its self-driving and Autopilot technology.

Contributing: Emily De Laiter, James Powell, USA TODAY, and Reuters.

Follow Mike Snyder on X and Threads: @mikesnider & com.micegsnider.

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