US investigates Tesla's Autopilot recall

The federal government's top auto safety agency said Friday it was investigating Tesla's recall of its Autopilot driver-assist system because regulators were concerned the company hadn't done enough to ensure drivers remained alert while using technology.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said in documents posted on its website that it is reviewing Tesla's December recall of two million vehicles, which covered nearly all of the cars the company had produced in the United States since 2012. The the safety agency said. had concerns about accidents that occurred after the recall and the results of preliminary tests of the recalled vehicles.

The agency also released an analysis that found that from January 2018 to August 2023, there were at least 29 fatal crashes involving Autopilot and a more advanced system that Tesla calls Full Self-Driving. In 13 of these fatal crashes, the front of the Teslas hit objects or people in their path.

The Tesla recall investigation and new crash data add to a list of headaches for Tesla, the leading maker of electric vehicles in the United States. The company's sales in the first three months of the year fell more than 8% from a year earlier, the first such decline since the early days of the coronavirus pandemic.

Tesla announced in December that it would retire its Autopilot software after an investigation by the Automobile Safety Agency found that the automaker had not put in place sufficient safety measures to ensure that the system, which can accelerate, braking and controlling cars in other ways, was used safely by motorists who would have to be ready at any time to regain control of their car using autopilot.

In its analysis of Tesla crash data, the safety agency found that when the company's cameras, sensors and software didn't detect obstacles in the car's path and drivers didn't compensate for the failure quickly enough, the consequences were often catastrophic.

In one case, a child just getting off a school bus in March 2023 in North Carolina was struck by a Tesla Model Y traveling at highway speeds. He suffered serious injuries. “Based on publicly available information, both the bus and the pedestrian would have been visible to an attentive driver and would have allowed the driver to avoid or minimize the severity of the crash,” the safety agency said.

It's unclear how often Tesla cars are involved in crashes while Autopilot and fully self-driving are in use, the agency said, because the company isn't aware of every crash involving its cars. The safety agency added that Tesla has been an anomaly in the auto industry by discouraging drivers from using an Autopilot system that is not equipped for many situations.

Tesla is facing several lawsuits from individuals who say the system is defective and that its design contributed to or is responsible for serious injuries and deaths.

The December recall, which includes a wireless software update, includes visual warnings and more prominent controls when drivers use Autopilot to remind them to keep their hands on the wheel and pay attention to the road. The recall affects all five of Tesla's passenger models: 3, S, X, Y and Cybertruck.

Tesla did not respond to a request for comment.

The auto safety agency also said Friday that it disputes Tesla's decision to allow customers to opt-in to the recall and to allow them to reverse the changes. Tesla also appeared to include other updates that addressed issues related to the recall that the company and the safety agency had not agreed on in advance.

Tesla and its CEO, Elon Musk, have long bristled at criticism of Autopilot and fully autonomous driving. They argued that the systems, none of which allow the cars to drive themselves, make the cars safer and blamed drivers for any accidents or problems.

The automaker has been under scrutiny from safety regulators for other issues as well.

Last week, the auto safety agency said Tesla had agreed to recall nearly 4,000 Cybertruck pickups. The agency said the way soap was used as a lubricant when assembling the truck could cause the accelerator pedal to stick. The automaker is not aware of any injuries or incidents related to this defect.

In February, Tesla recalled more than two million vehicles because the font size on the warning panel was too small.

The company is struggling to maintain its dominant position in the electric vehicle market as newer and more established automakers introduce new models around the world. Tesla's market share of the U.S. electric vehicle market fell to 51% in the first quarter, down from 62% a year earlier.

Musk told employees this month that Tesla will cut more than 10% of its workforce. Two senior executives also announced they will leave the company.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *