Tesla issues massive recall of more than 2 million vehicles over autopilot safety concerns
Tesla is recalling more than 2 million of its vehicles, nearly all its cars on the road in the U.S., after an investigation found its autopilot safety system was “not sufficient to prevent driver misuse.”
The recall includes the 2012-2023 Model S, 2016-2023 Model X, 2017-2023 Model 3 and 2020-2023 Model Y equipped with Autosteer, a feature Tesla describes as “traffic-aware cruise control.”
Autosteer maintains a set speed or a set following distance, detects lane markings and the presence of other vehicles. But the company warns that drivers’ hands should remain on the steering wheel and “always be prepared to take immediate action” even when using the feature.
The recall was issued following a probe by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, which is under the Transportation Department.
The NHTSA first investigated 11 incidents involving Tesla’s Autosteer in August 2021. In total, the agency reviewed nearly 1,000 crashes where autopilot was initially alleged to have been used, and focused on 322 autopilot-involved crashes "including frontal impacts and impacts from potential inadvertent disengagement of the system."
Tesla cooperated and had several meetings with the agency over the next two years.
The investigation found that in certain circumstances with Autosteer, 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 safety report said that Tesla didn’t agree with the agency’s engineering analysis of the Autosteer issue, but on Dec. 5, agreed to voluntarily administer a recall and remedy: a free over-the-air software update to impacted vehicles.
The update will “incorporate additional controls and alerts" to "further encourage the driver to adhere to their continuous driving responsibility whenever Autosteer is engaged,” the safety report said.
Owners of impacted vehicles will be alerted via mail.
The report noted that as of Dec. 8, Tesla has identified nine warranty claims received between July 13, 2021, and Sept. 17, 2023, that “may be related” to the Autosteer issue.
NBC News has reached out to Tesla, based in Austin, Texas, for comment.
The recall the latest hurdle for Tesla, which has long touted its Autopilot and “Full Self Driving” mode as safe.
On Monday, Tesla doubled down tweeting, “Safety metrics are emphatically stronger when Autopilot is engaged than when not engaged” in response to a Washington Post article highlighting eight fatal or serious Tesla crashes that occurred when Autopilot should not have been enabled in the first place.
In February this year, Tesla recalled more than 360,000 vehicles because of a version of its “full self-driving” software that may increase the risk of crashes, the NHTSA said at the time.
The NHTSA spokesperson said Wednesday that its investigation "remains open as we monitor the efficacy of Tesla’s remedies and continue to work with the automaker to ensure the highest level of safety."
"Automated technology holds great promise for improving safety but only when it is deployed responsibly; today’s action is an example of improving automated systems by prioritizing safety," the spokesperson added.