Tesla Faces US Investigation of Recall for 2 Million Cars over Autopilot

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Key Takeaways

  • The NHTSA is investigating whether Tesla's recall of 2 million cars over Autopilot was sufficient.
  • There were reports of crashes after the needed software update was installed.
  • The probe came after the NHTSA found that Autopilot had a "safety gap."

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has launched an investigation into whether or not a Tesla recall in December of 2 million cars was enough to fix an Autopilot issue.

Officials began the probe after receiving crash reports of updated cars and analyzing preliminary findings from NHTSA tests. They also pointed to Tesla’s own language telling drivers that they had to both opt in and could reverse the update.

The EV maker has also issued non-fix updates that seem related to defect investigators’ concerns, the agency added.

The recall investigation covers virtually all Tesla cars made between 2012 and 2024, including the Cybertruck, Model 3, Model S, and Model X. There are no reports of injuries resulting from the crashes.

The NHTSA also said that its three-year investigation of Autopilot, which began in August 2021, pinpointed numerous crashes where “foreseeable driver misuse” of the semi-autonomous technology played a role. A well-known 2018 crash saw Apple engineer Walter Huang die when his Model X veered into a highway median with Autopilot engaged. There were concerns he may have been distracted by his phone.

Autopilot’s light driver engagement requirements were “not appropriate” for the system’s abilities and created a “critical safety gap,” the NHTSA determined. The feature normally requires that you put your hands on the steering wheel at least periodically. If you don’t, you receive warnings and eventually lose Autopilot for the rest of the trip.

Tesla disbanded its communications department years ago and isn’t available for comment. In December, it said it disagreed with the NHTSA’s findings but would implement extra alerts and controls to keep drivers attentive while Autopilot was active.

This isn’t the first Tesla recall linked to the brand’s autonomy features. In February last year, the brand recalled about 362,000 cars to fix its Full Self Driving (FSD) beta after the NHTSA found that they didn’t properly honor traffic laws. Tesla has also faced a Justice Department investigation over both FSD and Autopilot.

Last week, Tesla recalled every Cybertruck sold over a manufacturing problem with the accelerator pedal. That flaw requires either fixing or replacing the pedal to prevent it from sticking.