Mass Tesla Autopilot Recall Ramps Up

Prospects of a widespread recall of Tesla cars over issues with its Autopilot automated drive system have increased as regulators say investigations are proceeding “really fast”.

Reuters reports that the acting head of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) told reporters this week the agency is “working really fast” on the Tesla Autopilot investigation it opened in August 2021. In June, NHTSA upgraded its defect probe into 830,000 Tesla vehicles with driver assistance system Autopilot and involving crashes with parked emergency vehicles to an engineering analysis. This is a required step before demanding a vehicle recall by the automaker.

NHTSA is reviewing whether Tesla vehicles adequately ensure drivers are paying attention. Previously, the agency said evidence suggested drivers in most crashes under review had complied with Tesla’s alert strategy that seeks to compel driver attention, raising questions about the system’s effectiveness. Yet despite this, Tesla owner Elon Musk appears to be raising the ante in allowing drivers to delegate more control to the vehicle by enabling handsfree driving.

In response to a New Year’s Eve tweet suggested drivers with more than 10,000 miles using Tesla’s “Full Self-Driving” FSD software system should be able to disable the “steering wheel nag,” an alert that instructs drivers to hold the wheel to confirm they are paying attention. Musk responded: “Agreed, update coming in Jan.”

However, NHTSA acting head Ann Carlson told reporters in Washington: “We’re investing a lot of resources. The resources require a lot of technical expertise, actually some legal novelty and so we’re moving as quickly as we can, but we also want to be careful and make sure we have all the information we need.”

— Paul Myles is a seasoned automotive journalist based in Europe. Follow him on Twitter @Paulmyles_

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