Tesla Recall Announced in U.S. Amid Autopilot Crash Probe

Tesla has recalled nearly all of its electric vehicles in the United States over concerns that its Autopilot feature is inadequate to prevent driver misuse. The massive Tesla recall comes amid a years-long regulatory investigation of the automaker and just days after The Washington Post reported that the Autopilot feature was enabled when it shouldn’t have been in at least eight serious crashes, some of which resulted in fatalities.

The Auto Defect Injury Lawyers at The Killino Firm have successfully represented numerous clients injured due to defective cars and vehicle components. If you were hurt or lost a loved one in a crash involving a Tesla EV, please contact our law firm at 877-875-2927 to speak with a personal injury attorney and learn more about your legal rights.

What Owners Should Know About the Tesla Recall

Tesla is the world’s leading manufacturer of electric vehicles.  According to USAToday, the company has so far announced more than a dozen recalls for issues that included incorrect front driver airbags, seat belts that might attach from their pretensioner anchor and defective parking brakes, among others. 

Tesla Autopilot is a collection of features that enable the car’s technology to control the vehicle to varying degrees. Autosteer, the specific feature that prompted this latest Tesla recall, is supposed to keep a vehicle in a lane without driver intervention. According to The Wall Street Journal, the action followed pressure from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), which has been investigating Autopilot for years following several high-profile crashes. 

“In certain circumstances when Autosteer is engaged, and the driver does not maintain responsibility for vehicle operation and is unprepared to intervene as necessary or fails to recognize when Autosteer is canceled or not engaged, there may be an increased risk of a crash,” the NHTSA said in a recent letter to Tesla.

 Around 2 million Tesla EVs – nearly every vehicle the company has sold in the United States – are affected by the recall, including:

  • Tesla Model 3, Model Years 2017-2023 
  • Tesla Model S, Model Years 2012-2023 
  • Tesla Model X, Model Years 2016-2023
  • Tesla Model Y, Model Years 2020-2023

Tesla will be wirelessly updating its cars to add new, more prominent visual alerts and checks when Autosteer is engaged to remind drivers to keep their hands on the wheel and pay attention to the road.  Owner notification letters are expected to be mailed on February 10, 2024.

NHTSA In Midst of Years-Long Tesla Investigation

The NHTSA has been investigating the Autosteer function since 2021, following 11 Tesla crashes in which the feature was found to be engaged. Since then, the regulator has identified  956 crashes in which Autopilot was engaged. However, the investigation primarily focuses on 322 accidents, including front-end collisions and situations where Autopilot may have been accidentally engaged.

In 2022, the NHTSA also began investigating claims that Tesla’s Autopilot and cruise control features had been associated with “phantom braking,” or sudden stops while driving, even on highways. Since beginning that investigation, the NHTSA has received 750 phantom braking complaints involving Tesla vehicles.

Last February, Tesla recalled more than 360,000 vehicles after NHTSA investigators determined that Tesla’s Full Self-Driving capability increased the risk of crashes. A more advanced feature than Autopilot, Full Self-Driving purportedly allows a car to “drive itself almost anywhere with minimal driver intervention.” However, testing and analysis conducted by the regulator found that the system could allow vehicles to travel above legal speed limits and through intersections in “an unlawful or unpredictable manner.”

Do Tesla’s Autopilot and Full Self-Driving Features Promote a False Sense of Security?

Teslas are not fully autonomous vehicles.

However, according to The Wall Street Journal, critics have long complained that the language Tesla uses to describe its Autopilot and Full Self-Driving capabilities may give some drivers an inflated concept of what the technology can do. Such an impression might lead to a false sense of security that could cause a driver to take their hands off the wheel and their attention off the road. 

In user manuals and communications with federal regulations obtained by The Washington Post, Tesla does acknowledge that Autopilot is intended for use on controlled-access highways” with “a center divider, clear lane markings, and no cross traffic.” However, the Post’s investigation also identified at least eight fatal or serious crashes involving Tesla drivers using Autopilot on roads that did not meet that criteria. And while the company says Autopilot is only to be used by a fully attentive driver who has their hands on the wheel and is prepared to take over at any moment, there have also been documented cases of drivers overriding safety functions to operate the vehicle without their hands on the wheel.

Last year, the California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) took regulatory action against Tesla, claiming the company engaged in fraud by falsely advertising its Autopilot and Full Self-Driving features as providing autonomous vehicle control.

“Instead of simply identifying product or brand names, these ‘Autopilot’ and ‘Full Self-Driving Capability’ labels and descriptions represent that vehicles equipped with the ADAS [advanced driver-assistance system] features will operate as an autonomous vehicle, but vehicles equipped with those ADAS features could not at the time of those advertisements, and cannot now, operate as autonomous vehicles,” the DMV asserted in a July 2022  filling. “These advertisements are a deceptive practice.”

Tesla denies the allegations and has asserted that its self-driving claims are protected by the First Amendment.

Contact Us

The Killino Firm’s Defective Product Lawyers possess the resources and experience to ensure those harmed by recalled and defective vehicles receive fair and full compensation for their medical bills, lost wages, pain and suffering, and other associated damages. If you or a loved one were seriously injured or tragically killed in a Tesla crash where Autopilot was engaged, and you would like to speak with an experienced attorney, please do not hesitate to contact the Killino Law Firm at 1-877-875-2927.