NHTSA announces Tesla recall for "full self-driving" mode safety concerns

Federal regulators announced a recall of Tesla vehicles due to concerns over erratic behavior when the cars are in Tesla's FSD or Full Self-Driving Beta mode.

Some Tesla owners see the subscription which touts "Full self-driving capability" for $199 a month, as a hands-free test drive of cutting edge technology, where the software uses cameras to "see" and steer the vehicle automatically through traffic.

But the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration cited safety concerns, saying that some Tesla vehicles on Full Self-Driving Mode have reportedly made serious errors such as driving straight through intersections from turn-only lanes or not adjusting to changes in speed limits.


"A lot of advocates are definitely now clamoring for the federal government to get more involved and have more oversight than what they've done to date," said Ethan Elkind, Director of the Climate Program at the UC Berkeley Law Center for Law Energy and the Environment.

Tesla agreed to push out an automatic over-the-air software fix in the coming weeks, something Tesla CEO Elon Musk said should not be characterized as a "recall."

Musk said on his social media account Thursday, "The word "recall" for an over-the-air software update is anachronistic and just flat wrong!"

Ethan Elkind, Director of the Climate Program at the UC Berkeley Law Center for Law Energy and the Environment, says crashes have led to more scrutiny and lawsuits. A high-profile pile-up on the Bay Bridge, involved a Tesla driver who claimed the self-driving mode malfunctioned.

"Without those lawsuits, there's nothing really to hold company's feet to the fire until regulators step in," said Elkind.

Elkind says the U.S. has a much different approach to regulating new technology than other countries.

"Tesla doesn't have their full self-driving in Europe, because regulators have not allowed them to proceed," said Elkind, "In places like the European Union, they operate under what's called the precautionary principle where basically, everything's considered illegal unless the companies can show that they're actually developing a safe product."

Many Tesla drivers are still skeptical.

"I don't think I'd be comfortable using those auto stuff," said one driver named Rick of Oakland.

"I like to have control of my vehicle, so have control at all times. Drive it, you know. I feel like if I fall asleep and something happens I dont' have control over that," said Diego Lucero of San Leandro.

Some engineers say Tesla relies heavily on machine-learning software and cameras, unlike other companies that are using additional radar or LIDAR technologies.

Some don't think a software update will be sufficient.

"I think it's going to be temporary because there are conditions they are going to be exposed to and the machine learning software is not able to recognize those so  It's going to happen again and again," said Fred Barez, a Professor of Mechanical Engineering at San Jose State University.

Tesla is expected to contact drivers affected by the recall and have a software update in the coming weeks.