Tesla on Tuesday recalled more than two million vehicles to update a function designed to ensure drivers are focused when using its Autopilot feature, according to safety officials.
The recall by Tesla, the world’s dominant maker of electric vehicles, was its fourth in less than two years. It covers nearly all models the company sells in the United States, including its most popular car, the Model Y sport utility vehicle.
The update will add new, more prominent visual alerts and checks for the Autosteer function, which is part of Autopilot. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said there may be “increased risk of a crash” when Autosteer is engaged and drivers do not “maintain responsibility for vehicle operation.”
The agency said that in August 2021 it began investigating 11 incidents involving Tesla vehicles that were operating with Autosteer engaged. A series of meetings between the agency and Tesla followed, and Tesla decided this month to voluntarily administer a recall.
Tesla began issuing an “over-the-air software remedy” to certain vehicles on Tuesday, safety officials said. The remaining vehicles will receive software updates later, and all updates will be free for the cars’ owners.
The update will add controls and alerts to the Autosteer function. Depending on the hardware, some updated vehicles will feature more prominent visual alerts on the user interface, as well as additional checks upon engaging Autosteer, while using the feature on roadways and when approaching traffic controls. Autosteer will also be suspended if the driver repeatedly fails to use it responsibly.
Letters to Tesla owners notifying them of the update are expected to be mailed in February.
Tesla’s recall this week is the latest in a string of events that have brought scrutiny to the automaker and its software. In October, a California jury found that the company’s driver-assistance software was not at fault in a crash that killed a Tesla owner and seriously injured two passengers.
The company has also faced a series of recalls. In May, China ordered Tesla to recall 1.1 million vehicles, citing an issue with the acceleration and braking systems of certain models manufactured in China and abroad.
A few months earlier, Tesla recalled more than 362,000 cars equipped with its Full Self Driving driver-assistance system after government regulators found it increased the risk of accidents. The system, which can steer, accelerate, brake and change lanes on its own, allows vehicles to travel above legal speed limits and through intersections in “an unlawful and unpredictable manner,” safety officials said.
And in early 2022, Tesla recalled 54,000 cars equipped with its Full Self Driving software to disable a feature that in certain conditions let the vehicles roll slowly through intersections without stopping.