Tesla calls back 54,000 cars and SUVs over ‘rolling stop’ feature for stop signs

DETROIT (AP) – Tesla is recalling nearly 54,000 cars and SUVs as its “Full Self-Driving” software lets it roll through stop signs without coming to a complete stop.

Documents posted Tuesday by U.S. security regulators say Tesla will disable the feature with an over-the-internet software update. The “Rolling stop” feature lets cars go through intersections with stop signs that stop all the way up to 5.6 miles per hour.

Tesla responded with the recall after two meetings with National Highway Traffic Safety Administration officials, according to documents. Tesla said it does not know of any crashes or injuries caused by function.

The recall covers Model S sedans and X SUVs from 2016 to 2022, as well as 2017 to 2022 Model 3 sedans and 2020 to 2022 Model Y SUVs.

Selected Tesla drivers “beta test” the “Full Self-Driving” software on public roads. The company says the cars themselves cannot drive and drivers must always be ready to take action.

A firmware release to disable the rolling stops is expected to be shipped in early February.

A message was left early Tuesday to seek comment from Tesla, which has disbanded its media relations department.

Police will map drivers for ignoring stop signs in most states. A related state for the Governors Highway Safety Association, which represents state highway safety offices, said he is not aware of any states that allow rolling stops.

NHTSA said in documents that not stopping for a sign could increase the risk of a crash.

Safety officials complain that Tesla can not test the cars in traffic with untrained drivers, and that the Tesla software can function, exposing other motorists and pedestrians to danger. Most of the other automotive companies have similar software tests with trained human safety drivers.

Tesla introduced the “rolling stop” feature in a software update sent to the test owners in October. 20. NHTSA met with Tesla on Jan. 10 and 19 to discuss how the software works, the documents said. On Jan. 20, the company agreed to disable the rolling stops with the software update.

Owners will receive required notification letters on March 28th.

The “rolling stop” feature lets the Teslas go through all the stop signs, as long as the owner has enabled the feature. The cars must travel below 5.6 mph as they approach the intersection, and no “relevant” moving cars, pedestrians or cyclists can be detected in the vicinity. All roads leading to the intersection had to have speed limits of 30 mph or less, the documents said. The Teslas would then be able to go through the intersection with 0.1 mph to 5.6 mph without coming to a complete stop.

Alain Kornhauser, faculty president of autonomous auto engineering at Princeton University, said the recall is an example of NHTSA doing its job as the nations’ watchdog for road safety. The recall “shows that they can be effective, even if Tesla should have been more responsible in the first place,” he said.

In November, NHTSA said it was seeking a complaint from a Tesla driver that the “Full Self-Driving” software caused a crash. The driver went to the office that the Model Y was going on the wrong lane and was hit by another car. The SUV gave the driver a warning halfway around the bend, and the driver allegedly tried to turn the steering wheel to prevent other traffic. But the car took control and “forced itself into the wrong lane”, the driver reported. No one was injured in the Nov. 3 crash in Brea, California, according to the complaint.

In December, Tesla agreed to upgrade its less sophisticated “Autopilot” driver assistance system after NHTSA opened an investigation. The company agreed to stop allowing video games to be played on central touchscreens while their cars were moving.

The agency is also investigating why Teslas on Autopilot collided several times in emergency vehicles parked on roads.

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