Tesla recalls 362,758 vehicles, says Full Self-Driving Beta software may cause crashes

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Elon Musk speaks on stage during the Westworld Featured Session during SXSW at Austin Convention Center on March 10, 2018 in Austin, Texas.
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Tesla is voluntarily recalling 362,758 vehicles equipped with the company’s experimental driver-assistance software, which is marketed as Full Self-Driving Beta or FSD Beta, in the US, according to a recall notice out Thursday. Tesla will deliver an over-the-air software update to cars to address the issues, the recall notice said.

The FSD Beta system may cause crashes by allowing the affected vehicles to: “Act unsafe around intersections, such as traveling straight through an intersection while in a turn-only lane, entering a stop sign-controlled intersection without coming to a complete stop, or proceeding into an intersection during a steady yellow traffic signal without due caution,” according to a safety recall report on the website of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

The FSD Beta system may also have trouble responding appropriately “to changes in posted speed limits,” the notice said.

The group of affected vehicles included the following years and models: 2016-2023 Model S and Model X, 2017-2023 Model 3, and 2020-2023 Model Y vehicles equipped with or pending installation of FSD Beta.

CEO Elon Musk and Tesla fans have objected to the use of the term “recall” to describe safety defects or issues that can be fixed with a software update delivered over wireless internet. On Thursday, he wrote on Twitter, “The word ‘recall’ for an over-the-air software update is anachronistic and just flat wrong!”

Tesla lets thousands of drivers try new and unfinished driver assistance features on public roads in the U.S. through FSD Beta. The technology does not make Tesla electric cars autonomous, nor safe to drive without a human at the wheel ready to brake or steer at any second — despite the brand name.

Only Tesla owners who have the company’s premium FSD driver assistance system installed in their cars can join the FSD Beta program. That option now costs $15,000 up front or $199 per month in the U.S. Owners must obtain a high driver-safety score, as determined by Tesla software that monitors their driving habits, and maintain it to get FSD Beta access.

FSD Beta can best be summarized as a host of new features that are not yet fully debugged. The main attraction is “autosteer on city streets,” which lets a Tesla navigate around complex urban environments automatically, if imperfectly.

Tesla has never disclosed how many people buy or subscribe to the premium FSD option. In the company’s last earnings call, CEO Elon Musk said: “As of now, we’ve deployed Full Self-Driving Beta to — for city streets — to roughly 400,000 customers in North America. This is a huge milestone for autonomy as FSD Beta is the only way any consumer can actually test the latest AI-powered autonomy.”

NHTSA and Tesla communications say the system is something much simpler: a “SAE level 2 driver support feature that can provide steering and braking/acceleration support to the driver under certain operating limitations.”

The safety recall report notes, “the driver is responsible for operation of the vehicle whenever the feature is engaged and must constantly supervise the feature and intervene (e.g., steer, brake or accelerate) as needed to maintain safe operation of the vehicle.”

Shares of Tesla fell a little more than 1% on the news, then quickly recovered.

This is a developing story. Please check back for updates.

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