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Tesla OTA software update gets blown way out of proportion

A US safety agency has ordered car company Tesla to update its driver assistance software. That’s it.

Scott Bicheno

December 14, 2023

2 Min Read

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) seems to classify any such intervention as a ‘recall’ but that term seems to be highly misleading in this case. In the NHTSA’s own words, the remedy to a minor failing in Tesla’s Autosteer driver assist system is an over-the-air (OTA) update that can probably be done with minimal owner involvement.

Nonetheless, many media have headlined their reporting on the matter in such a way as to suggest Tesla is being forced to physically recall two million cars in the US in order to fix them. While the NHTSA’s use of the term technically justifies the use of it in headlines, those media that place a higher value on accuracy have preferred to describe the matter as a software fix.

Here’s what the NHTSA had to say in its corresponding safety recall report. “In certain circumstances when Autosteer is engaged, the prominence and scope of the feature’s controls may not be sufficient to prevent driver misuse of the SAE Level 2 advanced driver-assistance feature.” In other words, the agency wants the software to do a better job of intervening if drivers treat this driver assist feature as more of an autonomous driving mode.

Here's the required remedy: “At no cost to customers, affected vehicles will receive an over-the-air software remedy, which is expected to begin deploying to certain affected vehicles on or shortly after December 12, 2023, with software version 2023.44.30. Remaining affected vehicles will receive an over-the-air software remedy at a later date.

“The remedy will incorporate additional controls and alerts to those already existing on affected vehicles to further encourage the driver to adhere to their continuous driving responsibility whenever Autosteer is engaged, which includes keeping their hands on the steering wheel and paying attention to the roadway.”

That’s it. Assuming Tesla’s OTA software update system functions correctly there should be no drama and the NHTSA will have no remaining safety concerns around the Autosteer system. It sent a letter to Tesla on the matter, and there don’t seem to have been any public statements from Tesla in response. The main takeaway from the whole saga is that it seems to be time for the US auto industry to bring its nomenclature into the 21st century.

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About the Author(s)

Scott Bicheno

As the Editorial Director of Telecoms.com, Scott oversees all editorial activity on the site and also manages the Telecoms.com Intelligence arm, which focuses on analysis and bespoke content.
Scott has been covering the mobile phone and broader technology industries for over ten years. Prior to Telecoms.com Scott was the primary smartphone specialist at industry analyst Strategy Analytics’. Before that Scott was a technology journalist, covering the PC and telecoms sectors from a business perspective.
Follow him @scottbicheno

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