Tesla recalls more than two million cars in the US due to ‘Autopilot’ fault

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A recall has been issued for almost every Tesla vehicle sold in the US since 2012 to address the brand’s semi-autonomous driving technology – which does not have enough safeguards to prevent its misuse – through a Wi-Fi software update.


US electric-car giant Tesla will recall – and release a downloadable software update to fix – more than two million vehicles in its home market, following a multi-year investigation into its semi-autonomous driving technology by the country’s peak body for road safety.

In August 2021, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) – which acts as the peak road safety regulation authority in the US – launched an investigation into Tesla’s so-called ‘Autopilot’ driving software, after multiple crashes involving cars which allegedly had the system activated.

At the time, almost 800,000 Tesla cars were equipped with the system which is similar to a number of other semi-autonomous systems offered by car makers, providing ‘Level 2’ autonomous capabilities such as adaptive cruise control and lane-keeping assistance.

On top of concerns about the marketing of the Autopilot system – which has been criticised for giving drivers the impression that it can drive the car itself – Tesla’s semi-autonomous technology was investigated surrounding claims that there were not enough safeguards to prevent it from being misused by drivers.

As a result, the NHTSA found Tesla’s Autopilot controls “may not be sufficient to prevent driver misuse”, resulting in the recall of 2,031,220 cars on US roads now equipped with the system.

According to NHTSA, Tesla will provide an over-the-air (OTA) update to address the recall.

Tesla vehicles affected by the recall include the 2017-2023 Model 3, 2012-2023 Model S, 2016-2023 Model X and 2020-2023 Model Y.

The latest recall represents the second time this year that Tesla’s vehicles have been called in to remedy a fault with the car-maker’s semi-autonomous driving systems.

In February 2023, NHTSA issued a recall notice for all Tesla electric cars equipped with the more capable ‘Full Self-Driving’ semi-autonomous technology in the US, following a number of deadly crashes and near-misses attributed to the system.

This recall was addressed in a software update which rolled out to 363,000 cars in March.

As previously reported, between July 2021 to June 2022 NHTSA data noted 392 crashes – involving 12 different car brands – which involved vehicles equipped with advanced driver-assistance systems. 

In that sample, Tesla vehicles accounted for 273 – or 70 per cent – of the incidents.

Of the six fatalities in which advanced driver-assistance systems were considered a factor, Tesla cars accounted for five of the deaths.

At least 17 fatal crashes (including the six mentioned above) involving Tesla’s semi-autonomous driving tech in the US have been reported to the peak road safety authority since mid-2021.

An increase in reported fatal crashes involving Tesla’s semi-autonomous driving technology coincided with the electric-car giant replacing radar sensors – which were used for the car-maker’s advanced driver assistance systems – with camera-based technology from May 2021.

While Autopilot and Enhanced Autopilot are available in Australia, Tesla’s Full Self-Driving is not currently available locally in its full form, as it is offered in the US.

The latest recall does not affect Australian-delivered Tesla vehicles as local road safety authorities are not investigating the company’s semi-autonomous driving technology.

Jordan Mulach is Canberra/Ngunnawal born, currently residing in Brisbane/Turrbal. Joining the Drive team in 2022, Jordan has previously worked for Auto Action, MotorsportM8, The Supercars Collective and TouringCarTimes, WhichCar, Wheels, Motor and Street Machine. Jordan is a self-described iRacing addict and can be found on weekends either behind the wheel of his Octavia RS or swearing at his ZH Fairlane.

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