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Fool self driving prompts big Tesla recall

Tesla to recall more than 362,000 cars in US over ‘full self driving’ safety concerns

20 Feb 2023

REGULATORS in the United States have deemed that the full self-driving (FSD) Beta software in Tesla vehicles does not adequately adhere to traffic safety laws and could cause crashes, prompting more than 362,000 vehicles to be recalled.


The recall will involve an over-the-air update to the FSD software, in response to findings from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) stating that the software allows a Tesla vehicle to “exceed speed limits or travel through intersections in an unlawful or unpredictable manner”.


Despite being vocal in disagreeing with the NHTSA findings, Tesla will release an over-the-air (OTA) software update free of charge for 2016-2023 Model S and Model X vehicles, 2017-2023 Model 3 vehicles, and 2020-2023 Model Y vehicles equipped with the FSD Beta software. 


Tesla’s share price fell by 1.6 per cent after word of the recall spread, despite strong growth across the month of February. The recall comes at an inopportune time for the company, ahead of its March 1 investor day.


In true Elon Musk fashion, the Tesla CEO took to Twitter saying: “The word “recall” for an over-the-air software update is anachronistic and just flat wrong!”


Regardless of the semantics around the recall and subsequent over-the-air updates, it is not the first time Tesla has recalled vehicles equipped with the FSD Beta software. 


The car-maker recalled nearly 54,000 FSD-equipped vehicles in the US last year, according to NHTSA, after it was found that the software may have allowed “rolling stops” (vehicles not coming to a complete stop at some intersections).


NHTSA has to date opened more than three dozen investigations involving Tesla crashes where advanced driver assistance systems were suspected of use and 19 deaths were reported, Reuters reports. 


In December last year, the NHTSA launched two new special investigations into crashes involving Tesla vehicles, including one in which a driver reported the FSD feature had malfunctioned.


Earlier this year Tesla confirmed it would enact two-week bans for “improper usage” of its FSD system, but the update did not affect vehicle owners in Australia. 


This recall is unlikely to affect Australian owners either, as the version of FSD on offer Down Under is pared back compared with the US equivalent with less autonomous functionality on offer. 


University of Sydney senior lecturer in aerospace, mechanical and mechatronic engineering, Donald Dansereau, highlighted the need for regulatory bodies to keep up with the rollout of autonomous technologies. 


"With recent developments around the Tesla recall and the impact of generative AI like ChatGPT, Bing and Google Bard, we see the increasing importance of carefully considering how AI and autonomy get rolled out,” he said.


"When we entrust autonomous systems with lives, we need to make sure regulatory processes keep up.”


Dr Dansereau is also the perception theme lead for the Sydney Institute for Robotics and Intelligent Systems, a program that studies the deep technical challenges of autonomous intelligence in complex scenarios. 


“Tesla have branded their Autopilot as "Full Self Driving" and this has led many to assume fully autonomous driving works today,” he said.


“This is not the case, FSD is supposed to be carefully supervised by a human driver. It's critical that we understand the limitations of AI and autonomous systems to be able to deploy them safely.”

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