Tesla recalls nearly all cars sold in the US due to accidents during autopilot

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Another day, another controversy surrounds one of Elon Musk’s companies. This time, the issue involves Elno’s S3XY cars. Tesla has had to recall nearly all of the cars that they’ve sold in the US in order to update its autopilot software system to make sure that drivers are paying adequate attention whenever they are using it. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has been investigating accidents that have occurred while being driven in autopilot. The report said that its investigation found that the system’s inadequate method of making sure the drivers are paying attention could lead to “foreseeable misuse of the system.” Tesla will be updating all of the recalled cars to routinely check to make sure drivers are paying attention. If they don’t respond properly, the feature may disengage. It could also limit the areas where basic versions of autopilot can operate.

Tesla is recalling more than 2 million cars sold in the U.S. due to issues with its autopilot software system, according to multiple reports. The electric car company will update the system to make sure that drivers are paying adequate attention when their vehicles are engaged in the autopilot function, according to the Associated Press, CNN and The New York Times.

The recall was disclosed in a letter by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) to the car company regarding its ongoing probe related to accidents in which drivers were using autopilot. Among the models recalled according to the letter are Model 3/2017-2023, Model S/2012-2023, Model X/2016-2023 and Model Y/2020-2023.

Tesla did not immediately respond to PEOPLE’s request for comment on the recall.

NHTSA found that many drivers are not taking adequate action to avoid crashes when the autopilot system is engaged and warning lights are triggered, the AP reported. After the software update, Teslas with Autosteer will routinely check on the driver’s attention level and may disengage the feature should driving conditions warrant, per CNN.

One such accident occurred last July in Virginia when a 57-year-old man was killed when the Tesla he was driving on autopilot crashed into the side of a tractor-trailer. The Fauquier County Sheriff’s Office tells PEOPLE that its investigation found no indication that the autopilot feature directly led to the crash but noted that the car had been on autopilot.

“The Tesla was in ‘autopilot’ mode, which is a lower level of automobile driving assist that requires active driver supervision,” the sheriff’s office told PEOPLE in a statement. “The vehicle’s electronic data recorder further indicates that the Tesla safety system was aware of something in the roadway.”

The sheriff’s office initially charged the truck driver with reckless driving, but the charge was later dropped when it was determined that the Tesla driver was traveling at about 70 miles per hour — 25 mph over the posted speed limit.

Earlier this year, Tesla announced a voluntary recall of 362,758 vehicles equipped with Full Self-Driving Beta (FSD) software. NHTSA announced in the recall that the FSD “increases the risk of a crash” due to several alleged bugs in the software, which Tesla was set to remedy with a free over-the-air update.

[From People]

On one hand, Tesla was marketing safe cars with the autopilot feature to its customers. I guess I can see how someone could have a sense of complacency with their $100k+ car, in which they assume that just because it was expensive, it *must* mean it’s safe. But the problem with relying on the warning systems is that people tend to tune that stuff out, like the lane assist feature that beeps when you cross over a line without using a turning signal. And, as experts point out, the recall doesn’t fix the problem Teslas have with spotting and stopping for obstacles in their path.

On the other hand, I cannot understand why, even with autopilot, the driver of a moving vehicle would not pay attention to what is going on! When I’m driving on the highway, I use the cruise control on my car all of the time. It’s adaptive, so it adjusts its speed whenever it senses a car in front of me, but I am always on alert to shut it off or do a hard break just in case it fails or the cars in front of me suddenly stop short. It feels like the autopilot system should have been thought out better rather than just rely on human beings to always do the right thing. As for what Tesla’s fearless leader has to say, he’s too busy being big mad about that Tesla scene in Leave the World Behind.

photos credit: Backgrid, Getty and via Instagram

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38 Responses to “Tesla recalls nearly all cars sold in the US due to accidents during autopilot”

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  1. Anonymous says:

    Anyone driving a Tesla is a Guinea pig. And I know a few people who have them. We in fact spoke about autopilot back in 2016/17 and they felt comfortable taking their hands off the wheel and all that.

    I made sure I never rode with them.

  2. Jan says:

    Last month while driving, a Tesla almost smash me into a cement barrier, I was so fcuking scared, it was self driving and the driver pulled the steering wheel at the last minute.
    Then I speed up to catch up, and the driver was back on the computer without a care in the world, I was so pissed.

  3. Flowerlake says:

    Ah, he’s not as brilliant as his fanboys try to convince themselves he is.

    Yeah, and we knew that with a system like this, people would start paying zero attention to the road at some point. Would surprise me if there aren’t already a bunch of drivers out there playing Tetris, reading books and even working away on a laptop while they are supposedly watching the road with this system.

    • sid says:

      Once I found out he wasn’t the actual founder of Tesla, just an investor that eventually took over, everything made sense. Dude is a bigoted troll and a charlatan.

      • Flowerlake says:

        Yeah, indeed. That makes it look even dumber.

        What makes it EVEN worse is that Nikola Tesla (the real genius) was all about sharing knowledge for free. He even thought electricity should be free for the whole world.

        And somehow they used this awesome, genius, somewhat eccentric guy’s name for this cynical mess.

    • Megan says:

      Musk is not a genius. His skill is motivating people to do what they think is impossible. Being born on third base and some really good timing and luck have been major factors in his success.

      • Flowerlake says:

        I am not American so don’t fully understand the rules of baseball (it isn’t really that big here), but I still get what you’re saying about third base.

        great expression!

        (I am assuming third base is the one base before homerun base?)

  4. Imoverit says:

    My SO works in automotive safety..he has said their testing process is effectively zero and they just let their cars out on the road with seious accidents just waiting to happen. Like the above poster commented, anyone who drives one is effectively a guinea pig. NPR was talking about their new stainless steel truck yesterday..God help anyone involved In an accident with one of those.

    • Deering24 says:

      Heck, I’ve never been comfortable with cruise control. Too many things can happen on the road for me to feel safe essentially just tuning out. So autopilot sounded like a seriously bad idea even from a “how are they sure this is gonna work?” POV. And when you take in account people will use it so they can watch TV/movies or play games and not pay attention to driving at all, well…🙄

  5. Gabby says:

    This whole autopilot/self-driving car thing really grinds my gears. Just because we can does not mean we should, and a good number of people will be killed in the process. Cars should be operated by people who want to live.

    • SarahCS says:

      Very much yes to this. Either you are driving or you are not. The ‘not’ option is currently trains, busses, etc. Being a passenger. The tech is not yet there for cars to drive on the roads safely without a human being actively involved. The more you give people these ‘lazy’ options the more others will be killed and injured. We already know people do stupid and dangerous stuff while driving, don’t make it easier for them to ignore the road.

  6. Kittenmom says:

    I have a tesla. And i love it. But…big but here…I do not use autopilot. Ever. I am acutely aware that I am driving a 2 ton machine with the potential to kill people. Why would I not take that seriously and keep my whole attention on the road?

    • WiththeAmerican says:

      It’s sad that a Tesla is now basically the sign of being pro klan nazi MAGA. The red hat of vehicles. I feel bad for everyone who bought one before.

      But the Rivian is so great and now hybrids are becoming more popular than EVS, so there are a lot of options for people.

    • Zantasia says:

      Same—I was not about to pay the thousands of dollars to test out their autopilot program. The lane assist/crash avoidance that comes standard in my Y is like the same feature I had in my 2016 forester.

  7. Onomo says:

    My friend has dozed off in his. He said it’s happened on stretches with only 70 mph highway when he’s going to the middle of nowhere! Honestly, Teslas and their drivers’ trust in them scare tf out of me.

    • Deering24 says:

      Yup, that was the problem I had with cruise control. Too easy to relax and not be alert. And even the smoothest highways always have something going on…

  8. ML says:

    Personally I hope that this leads to effective safety changes. And price changes: these cars are technically much cheaper to make, and they’re so expensive. That’s ridiculous.

    By the way, yesterday in Europe we learned that the Swedish strike just made life more difficult for Elno again: https://www.reuters.com/business/autos-transportation/swedish-labour-union-stop-collecting-tesla-waste-sweden-2023-12-13/

    • Megan says:

      Dealerships make their money on routine maintenance and repairs. Electric cars require very little maintenance so they cost more on the front end to make them profitable.

      • ML says:

        From Dacia to Peugot to Nissan, most car companies produce cheaper similar size electric cars than Tesla. People who purchase Teslas here need to pick them up from this out of the way lot instead of a dealership. Teslas are way overpriced from factory to purchase to repairs compared with other electric vehicles.

      • WiththeAmerican says:

        Well, getting any work done on a Tesla is prohibitively expensive and requires going through an app which he has trained to deny owners their right to service.

        Most people don’t want to spend $27,000 repairing something on their car. Tesla does make a ton of money on service because their service is so expensive (from Business Insider):

        Tesla’s second-biggest revenue segment in 2022 was what it classes as “services and other revenue,” which brought in $6.1 billion, a 60% increase in 2021. This category includes non-warranty after-sales vehicle services and parts, paid Supercharging, used vehicle sales, retail merchandise, and vehicle insurance.

      • kindkaren says:

        It took my friend three days to get a tire changed. They have pick the car up on a flatbed and take it to the dealership…and then they had to wait for tire to come in. And, it was ridiculously expensive…. No loaner car while it was out.

  9. JanetDR says:

    I rarely even use cruise control because I feel it takes some of my attention away and I might not react quickly enough. I can’t imagine using a self driving feature!
    Maybe someday, but not now.

  10. Leigh_S says:

    None of this should surprise anyone. The Tesla mission from the start has been to bring Silicon Valley philosophy (Move fast and break things) to automotive.

    Move fast and break things in automotive = move fast and break people. There’s never been a way around that.

  11. SarahCS says:

    Love the tweet.

    I haven’t finished the film yet as I had to go to bed but the Tesla scene did make us think!

  12. hmm says:

    This surprises me actually. I have a Tesla and tried the self driving recently and had to turn it off precisely because it monitored me too closely. The cameras in your car watch your eyeline, so you can’t even do things you would do in a normal car like switch the music or look at the map without it yelling at you. It also makes you twist the wheel all the time to make sure you are paying attention to the road and it is maddening (I wonder if it does it more if you are female and have lighter arms? tested on adult men probably)

    • WiththeAmerican says:

      The reports show that owners were drunk, asleep on the backseat, and more so the car didn’t monitor them. The cameras don’t work at night to monitor eyeline and the car doesn’t recognize big trucks, for example, or pedestrians, or baby carriers.

      There’s a lot of ways to be unsafe. Teslas FSD have killed at least 17 people. That big steel nosed truck is going to kill more pedestrians and bike riders than we can fathom. It’s tragic.

    • Jill says:

      Exactly this. We have a Tesla and my husband loves this feature. It’s not perfect but it’s amazing what it can do. It does yell at you if your eyes aren’t looking ahead or if your hands are not on the wheel. If it yells at you too much, the feature will disengage. There is no reason for you not to pay attention while driving that car. It’s always recording, inside and out so easy to tell fault if there is an accident.

    • BeanieBean says:

      Huh. I had a 2021 Subaru that I had just gotten & driving to work one day apparently I took too long looking at a newborn calf to my right (at a dairy farm), & it told me to keep my eyes straight! Same when I looked a little too long (apparently) at interesting architecture. And I always wore sunglasses. I did like the warning beeps when I put my car in reverse in a parking lot, that helped spot people or cars that I hadn’t known were there.

      But–that dumb car’s electronic system somehow wore the battery down. I didn’t drive much & it started malfunctioning in extreme heat, then when I moved it malfunctioned in extreme cold. In the five months of winter, I had that car jumpstarted a couple dozen times, easily. I traded it in last May for a less electronic 2018 VW Beetle. Love the Beetle!

  13. Concern Fae says:

    I had a friend in a research group working on how to return control back the driver when a car on autopilot detects an unsafe condition. It’s really hard. The timing is split second and the driver may be in a completely inattentive headspace.

    The other issue is that these cars assume perfectly maintained roads and street signage. These tech bros have a fantasy that the government ( federal, state and local) is just going to pay to completely upgrade local roads and highways so to make them friendly to self driving cars. Also get rid of on street parking. No pedestrians or bicyclists would be nice too.

    As to the accident at 70mph, there should be no autopilot over the posted speed limit. This should be a big fine, not only for the driver, but the car company.

    • Deering24 says:

      “These tech bros have a fantasy that the government ( federal, state and local) is just going to pay to completely upgrade local roads and highways so to make them friendly to self driving cars.”

      *snort* Shoot, a lot of cities are struggling to fix falling-apart road infrastructure badly in need of updating. And I thought tech bros were all about government non-interference…🙄

  14. JaneS says:

    Pay no attention to the wizard behind the curtain.
    LOL. I hope Elon goes down in flames publicly ASAP.

    Self driving cars terrify me.
    Human drivers are dangerous enough on the road.

  15. Lizzie Bathory says:

    “Smart” technology should always assume the dumbest possible scenario. Autopilot should assume people will use it while sleeping/distracted/intoxicated, which is why it’s a terrible idea.

    Another stupid situation: a fellow lawyer whose (tech) company was an early adopter of smart coffee makers. When the wifi went down, the coffee makers were useless. Imagine an entire department of lawyers without coffee!

  16. Eden75 says:

    ***I wrote this and then added this rant note up here. I apologize in advance.***

    Technology is unreliable at best and moves too fast for this to be viable for quite awhile.

    Me and my other half own an IT company and he is a high level engineer and he will not have any of this crap in his vehicle. In fact, the electronics in my car drive him batty (a Honda Accord, not a Tesla, never will be. I will not give that a$$hole my money willingly). All electronics are obsolete the moment they are conceived, never mind by the time they are installed.

    I am a car fanatic and am all for electric vehicles once the battery technology is no longer made from the pillaging of the planet and the slavery of people. Tesla’s are rattly pieces of crap with an excellent marketing team. I have been in several that were used as taxi’s and window seals from the front windshield have fallen into the cab (that was the SUV, 2 weeks old) had internal door panels come off when I opened the door, on and on. At least Ford knows how to make a vehicle that holds together, even if the EV tech is not great. They are crappy in the far north, and I think that a lot of people, at least in Canada, are oblivious to the fact that the EV chargers that are located in remote locations (and some in cities and towns) are powered by DIESEL generators……..Wow, just wow.

    Be diligent and do your research before you drop insane amounts of money on a vehicle. Are there chargers that are not fossil fuel powered in your area? Is the grid for your city able to handle the extra draw on the power grid that will happen with the increase of EVs? Where is the power to charge your vehicle coming from? Is it coal, nuclear, hydro, wind, solar? If so, what is the impact of those on the environment? I spend a lot of time writing policies to lobby the government and no one takes any of that into account either. Yes, we need to do better, but rechargeable batteries are not the answer right now.

    • BeanieBean says:

      I hadn’t known/thought of the issue for where does the power come from for those chargers? Thank you for your insights.

  17. bettyrose says:

    I like to think of Elon as suffering death by a thousand corporate ef ups. Yeah, I know it would take a lot to bring down the world’s “richest” man, and corporate ef ups didn’t kill Trump’s career, but those weren’t nearly as public and didn’t impact our daily lives in the way that dismantling Twitter and unleashing dangerous cars has. Driving home from the dog park this morning, I was acutely aware of every single Tesla (and I’m in the Bay, so let me tell you there’s a LOT of them).

  18. MinnieMouse says:

    Over on LaineyGossip she has a very good point about how Tesla’s “autopilot” is not in fact autopilot as we have known the word for several decades, and that’s half the issue. People hear “autopilot” and assume it means what it says (takes over the task for you), not just that it’s basically advanced cruise control and lane drift warnings.