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The big picture: Tesla's self-driving car ambitions have faced considerable criticism for years. The pressure hasn't stopped this year, with a very public condemnation during the Super Bowl and negative comments from a tech industry titan. Recalling hundreds of thousands of cars because of autonomous operation defects can't be helping the company's situation.
The US National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) advised Tesla this week to issue a recall of nearly 363,000 vehicles due to problems with the company's self-driving software. Tesla will resolve the issue through an over-the-air update.
The recall affects Tesla models S, X, 3, and Y. In certain situations, the company's Full Self-Driving Beta (FSD) software could cause the cars to unsafely drive through static yellow lights, drive through stop signs, fail to observe speed limits, or drive straight out of turn-only lanes.
The NHTSA first contacted Tesla about the problem late last month. Tesla disagreed with the administration's analysis but voluntarily ordered a recall this month "out of an abundance of caution."
Definitely. The word "recall" for an over-the-air software update is anachronistic and just flat wrong!— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) February 16, 2023
The company will distribute the over-the-air patch to improve FSD over the next few weeks. Because Tesla owners won't have to bring their cars to dealerships or repair shops to fix the problem, company CEO Elon Musk called the term recall "anachronistic" in a tweet.
The recall is only the latest problem Tesla has faced regarding FSD. An ad during the Super Bowl from The Dawn Project showed a Tesla running on FSD slamming into child-sized mannequins and making various other errors.
The foundation's methodology has come under question, and its founder runs a company that makes competing software. Musk brushed off the ad as essentially free advertising for Tesla.
Earlier this month, Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak called Musk "dishonest" due to how Tesla advertised FSD in 2016. Wozniak and his wife invested tens of thousands of dollars on Tesla upgrades after a 2016 FSD demonstration that a Tesla director recently admitted was staged.
Self-driving cars from other companies have recently sparked complaints from California transit authorities. In one case, a fleet of robotaxis blocked an intersection. In other incidents, robotaxi operators wasted first responders' time by calling 911 when passengers fell asleep in the autonomous cars.
Tesla also suffered multiple recalls last year affecting hundreds of thousands of vehicles for other reasons—three in November concerned taillights, power steering, and airbags.