Tesla recalls more than 2 million vehicles to fix Autopilot safety issue


Detroit— Tesla is recalling more than 2 million vehicles across its model range to fix a faulty system that is supposed to ensure drivers pay attention when using Autopilot.

Documents released Wednesday by US security regulators say the company will send a software update to fix the problem.

The withdrawal occurs after two years. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration investigation in a series of accidents that occurred while the Autopilot partially automated driving system was in use. Some were fatal.

An agency spokesperson said in a statement to CBS News that its investigation found that Autopilot's method of ensuring drivers pay attention may be inadequate and “may lead to foreseeable misuse of the system.”

The recall covers nearly all vehicles Tesla sold in the US and includes Models Y, S, 3 and X produced between October 5, 2012 and December 7 of this year.

The software update includes additional controls and alerts “to further encourage the driver to meet their continued driving responsibility,” according to the documents.

The software update was sent to owners of certain affected vehicles on Tuesday, with the rest receiving it at a later date, according to the documents.

“Automated technology holds great promise for improving safety, but only when implemented responsibly. Today's action is an example of how to improve automated systems by prioritizing safety,” the NHTSA spokesperson said.

Autopilot includes features called Autosteer and Traffic Aware Cruise Control, with Autosteer designed for use on limited-access highways when not operating with a more sophisticated feature called Autosteer on city streets.

The software update will apparently limit where Autosteer can be used.

“If the driver attempts to activate Autosteer when the conditions to do so are not met, the feature will alert the driver that it is not available through visual and audible alerts, and Autosteer will not activate,” the recall documents say.

The documents say agency investigators met with Tesla starting in October to explain “tentative conclusions” about fixing the monitoring system. Tesla, he said, disagreed with the agency's analysis but agreed to the recall on Dec. 5 in an effort to resolve the investigation.

Car safety advocates for years have been calling for stricter regulation of the driver tracking systemwhich mainly detects whether the driver's hands are on the steering wheel.

Autopilot can automatically steer, accelerate and brake in its lane, but it is a driver assistance system and cannot drive itself despite its name. Independent tests have shown that the surveillance system is easy to fool, to the point that drivers have been caught driving drunk or even sitting in the back seat.

In its defect report filed with the safety agency, Tesla said the Autopilot controls “may not be sufficient to prevent driver misuse.”

A message was left early Wednesday seeking further comment from the Austin, Texas, company.

Tesla says on its website that Autopilot and a more sophisticated self-driving system cannot drive autonomously and are intended to assist drivers and that they must be ready to intervene at all times. Tesla owners are testing full self-driving on public roads.

In a statement posted Monday on X, formerly Twitter, Tesla said safety is greater when Autopilot is activated.

NHTSA has sent investigators to 35 Tesla crashes since 2016 in which the agency suspects the vehicles were driven with an automated system. At least 17 people have died.

The investigations are part of a broader NHTSA investigation into multiple cases of Teslas using Autopilot crashing into parked emergency vehicles that were responding to other crashes. NHTSA has become more aggressive in pursuing safety issues with Teslas over the past year, announcing multiple recalls and investigations, including a recall of Full Self Driving software.

In May, Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg, whose department includes NHTSA, said Tesla should not call the Autopilot system because it cannot drive itself.

In its statement Wednesday, NHTSA said the investigation into Tesla remains open “as we monitor the effectiveness of Tesla's remedies and continue to work with the automaker to ensure the highest level of safety.”

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