Tesla recalls 11,706 vehicles over Full Self-Driving Beta software bug

Tesla is issuing a recall over phantom collision warnings and brake activations.
Enlarge / Tesla is issuing a recall over phantom collision warnings and brake activations.

Aurich Lawson | Tesla

Tesla’s controversial “Full Self-Driving” feature took another hit on Tuesday. The Texan automaker issued a recall for nearly 12,000 vehicles after an over-the-air software update introduced a new bug that can cause false activations of the cars’ forward collision warning and automatic emergency braking (AEB) systems.

According to the safety recall report, the problem affects Models S, X, and 3 vehicles built between 2017 and 2021 and Model Y vehicles built between 2020 and 2021 that are running firmware release 2021.36.5.2. The updated firmware was rolled out to drivers in its beta testing program on October 23 and, once installed, caused a pair of chips to stop talking to each other when the vehicle wakes up from “sentry mode” or “summon standby mode.”

That error prevents the neural networks that operate on one of the chips from running consistently, causing it to throw false-positive collision warnings and—more seriously—false-positive AEB activations.

Tesla acted quickly after unleashing the faulty software. After receiving multiple reports of problems, the company halted the rollout and disabled the two affected safety features on the affected cars by the next day. On October 25, a new firmware version was released, correcting the problem and restoring collision warning and AEB to the affected cars.

Perhaps the most unusual aspect of this story is that Tesla initiated the recall process through the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration for a software issue. Almost all the affected cars have already been patched, and Tesla doesn’t often feel the need for such formality.

However, after years of admonishment and pleading by the National Transportation Safety Bureau, the new regime at the NHTSA has begun to apply a little more scrutiny to Tesla and its Autopilot system.

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