Tesla Recall Announced for 2M Vehicles with Autosteer Feature That May Increase Accident Risk

Problems with an automatic steering feature of the Tesla Autopilot driver assistance system have been linked to a number of auto accidents and fatalities, leading to a massive recall.

Telsa is recalling more than two million vehicles due to issues with it’s Autosteer feature, which may increase the risk of an auto accident in certain situations.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) announced the Tesla recall (PDF) on December 12, warning that the Autosteer driver assistance system in certain Model X, Model S, Model Y and Model 3 vehicles does not include sufficient measures to make sure drivers are aware of when they need to take over driving, or when the feature has been turned off and is not engaged.

The recall comes amid recent criticism of Tesla’s standard Autopilot features, which include an advanced driver assistance system (ADAS) that is intended to allow the vehicle to maneuver, maintain speed and distance behind other vehicles, and follow lane lines. The Autosteer function is a primary component of that system.

In June, the NHTSA reported that 17 fatal auto accidents and five serious injuries have been linked to the Tesla Autopilot system since 2019. The agency also reported that most of the 807 self-driving technology-related accidents reported at that time involved Tesla vehicles.

More recently, the Washington Post published a report on December 10, which indicated that at least eight fatal or serious accidents have been linked to the Autopilot system when it was used on roads for which it was not designed.

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In this latest recall, the NHTSA determined that Tesla failed to put the proper safety measures in place to warn a driver that they need to take over driving, or to warn them that the system is disengaged. This could lead to drivers relying on the Autosteer at times when it is unreliable or not even functioning, the recall notice warns.

“In certain circumstances when Autosteer is engaged, and the driver does not maintain responsibility for vehicle operation and is unprepared to intervene as necessary or fails to recognize when Autosteer is canceled or not engaged, there may be an increased risk of a crash,” the NHTSA warns.

The recall affects an estimated 2,032,220 vehicles, including Tesla Model 3 vehicles from model years 2017-2023, Tesla Model S vehicles from model years 2012-2023, Tesla Model X vehicles from model years 2016-2023, and Tesla Model Y vehicles from model years 2020-2023. All affected vehicles are equipped with the Autosteer feature.

Tesla has indicated it will release an over-the-air software update free of charge, and will notify owners of the recall by letter, which is expected to be mailed on February 10, 2024. Tesla owners with questions can call Tesla customer service at 1-887-798-3752.

Tesla Autopilot Lawsuits

The recent increase in reported self driving car accidents involving Tesla and other auto manufacturers implementing driver assistance technology has led to wrongful death lawsuits that allege the systems contributed to fatal car accidents.

In 2021,  a wrongful death lawsuit against Tesla alleged the Autopilot system failed to detect an oncoming crash, resulting in the death of a 15 year old.

In February 2022, a lawsuit alleged the Tesla Model 3 Autopilot system failed to detect and avoid a crash, leaving a woman dead and her husband severely injured.

Tesla maintains that neither its standard Autopilot system, nor its Full Self Driving (FSD) feature, are intended to be fully automated, “driverless” systems, but are an add-on software package capable of stopping at traffic lights, steering around vehicles, and maneuvering through turns. Tesla users must maintain active supervision while using both features and prepare to intervene if necessary to avoid a crash, according to company marketing materials.

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