NHTSA wants Tesla to declare recall for cutting edge software update

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By Zach Shahan and Johnna Crider

The Associated Press reports that the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) is upset with a Tesla software update on some of its vehicles. The update allowed them to detect and slow down emergency response lights. Yes, you read that right. The Transportation Safety Agency is unhappy that Tesla is making its vehicles do something that no other vehicle on the road can – well, is unhappy that Tesla did not report this update as a “reminder”.

NHTSA is currently investigating several accidents involving Tesla vehicles and emergency vehicles, and believes Tesla is breaking a rule to help prevent such accidents in the future by rolling out a software update without a recall notice.

The point is, drivers are supposed to be responsible for their driving, automakers are not. Even though the automaker is working on technology that would one day make human driving obsolete, today all of Tesla’s semi-autonomous driving features require a human to diligently oversee driving and intervene when necessary. We are not yet in robotaxi land, so people still need to be careful and be careful.

A “recall” is supposed to be filed when an automobile manufacturer discovers something dangerous about their cars that needs to be repaired. As stated in the tweet above, no other car manufacturer has the feature that Tesla just added – the ability for the car to identify an emergency vehicle siren and try to proceed appropriately in response, especially useful if the driver is using semi-autonomous driving features . But was the fact that Tesla vehicles weren’t doing this before a problem / error with the cars that needed to be fixed? If that was the case, wouldn’t every other vehicle on the road have the same “problem / error” – meaning all other car makers would have to issue a recall and fix this issue? Obviously that’s not happening, so why should Tesla be forced to issue a recall? And just to be clear – other automakers have cruise control, adaptive cruise control, and lane-keeping functions that are in the same realm of “level 2” semi-autonomous driving technology as the Tesla’s autopilot.

NHTSA wrote a six-page letter to Tesla’s Field Quality Manager Eddie Gates and berated Tesla for updating the software. The letter cited the Safety Act as stipulating that automakers (including Tesla) are obligated to initiate a recall by notifying NHTSA when they determine their vehicles have defects.

Any manufacturer posting a live update that mitigates a defect that poses an unreasonable risk to motor vehicle safety is required to timely file a recall notice to NHTSA in accordance with 49 USC § 30118 and 49 CFR Part 573. “

This seems like silly pettiness, as this is just a new safety feature Tesla has added to make its vehicles even safer. He is add on what is expected of a car, not bringing Tesla up to basic standards.

NHTSA wants Tesla to provide them with a large amount of data to show how Tesla decided to roll out the new emergency light detection update. Included in the data:

  • Chronology of events.
  • Internal investigations.
  • Studies leading to the exit.
  • A statement as to whether or not Tesla plans to file a safety recall with NHTSA.

NHTSA also wants more information on Tesla’s expansion of its Complete Self-Driving Beta (FSD) program, and more specifically, a detailed description of all the selection criteria used in the process. NHTSA also wants to know how many Tesla owners have pressed the button requesting the beta of FSD.

You can read the full letter here.

Interestingly, Tesla shared a video this week on how it is able to design the safest vehicles on the road. In this video, Tesla demonstrated technology that would make even the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s (NHTSA) crash test system a little outdated.

Tesla has long focused on safety. Tesla CEO Elon Musk has stressed that safety is the company’s top priority when designing and developing vehicles, and he confirmed this a few days ago in response to a CleanTechnica article.

It is therefore ironic that another cutting edge safety feature is being pointed out as supposedly requiring a recall notice. You can’t make that up.

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