To say Tesla’s driver assistance features are polarizing would be a massive understatement. The company has been under investigation by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) since 2016 because so many people died that there’s a whole website dedicated to tracking fatalities. Cool! Now, literally one day after the LA Times reported that the DMV is taking Tesla to court over the alleged false advertising of its limited autonomous capabilities as “Full-Self Driving,” nearly every vehicle it’s sold in the U.S. is being recalled.
All Tesla models equipped with Autosteer are affected by the recall, including the 2012-2023 Model S, 2017-2023 Model 3, 2016-2023 Model X, and 2020-2023 Model Y. The feature is supposed to assist with steering by detecting lane markers and other vehicles, but the recall states that it doesn’t have the proper safeguards in place to prevent misuse.
“In certain circumstances when Autosteer is engaged, the prominence and scope of the feature’s controls may not be sufficient to prevent driver misuse of the SAE Level 2 advanced driver-assistance feature.” For reference, Level 2 systems provide steering and brake/acceleration support but require driver attentiveness and a readiness to take control at any time. Adaptive cruise control with lane centering is considered a Level 2 system, which is where most automakers have landed with the tech for now.
Tesla will issue an over-the-air software update to remedy the issue and said that owners will start seeing the update after December 12, while some models won’t get the fix until later on. The automaker said it had received nine warranty claims related to the issue. Still, the NHTSA’s investigation opened in late 2021 to examine eleven crashes involving stationary first responder vehicles and Teslas with Autopilot engaged.
While this recall should improve the safety of Tesla’s semi-autonomous driving systems, the fact remains that calling something “Autopilot” or “Full Self-Driving” is almost sure to cause confusion. Neither system can functionally drive the vehicle without a human’s supervision and input, and we’re still years away from anything even slightly resembling a self-driving car.