Tesla must revise Autopilot software

The carmaker's 'Autopilot' system is the subject of several official proceedings. The most extensive was initiated about two years ago by the US transport authority NHTSA and has since been expanded. Tesla is now delivering the software update.

Image: Tesla

The NHTSA began its investigation in August 2021 as a “preliminary evaluation” after several Tesla EVs with activated Autopilot had hit emergency vehicles parked at the side of the road. Authorities wanted to examine how Tesla makes sure that drivers remain focused on the road and keep their hands on the wheel. Tesla is supposed to ensure this through motion sensors on the steering wheel and, in newer models, through monitoring with the help of cameras in the vehicle interior. At that time, around 765,000 Model 3, Model Y, Model S and Model X were subject to investigation in the US.

After about a year, the NHTSA expanded its investigation and turned a “preliminary investigation” into an official “technical analysis.” During this, the agency requested extensive information from Tesla on several occasions. It then concluded that the system was open to “foreseeable misuse.” According to the NHTSA, it met with Tesla representatives on several occasions from October to December 2023. The result is the update that has now been announced, which, according to NHTSA documents, affects 2,031,220 Model S, Model X, Model 3 and Model Y vehicles in the US – all built before December 2023.

Tesla said it disagrees with the NHTSA’s analysis but will provide a software update starting in mid-December that “adds controls and warnings in addition to those already present in affected vehicles to further encourage drivers to fulfil their responsibility to drive safely when Autosteer” – the steering assistant (beta) – is activated. The update will be carried out over-the-air, as is customary at Tesla. The software with the version number 2023.44.30 is already being installed in newly manufactured models.

In principle, a technical analysis such as the one now completed can lead to a recall ordered by the NHTSA. In this specific case, however, it was not necessary. As the agency explains, Tesla representatives did not agree with the results of the investigation, but decided on a voluntary recall.

nhtsa.gov (PDF), reuters.com


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