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Two Million Vehicles Recalled Over Tesla Autopilot Issues

Tesla

Under significant pressure from federal regulators, Tesla has issued a safety recall for more than 2 million vehicles in the U.S. because of defects in its semi-autonomous Tesla Autopilot system.

According to a report in The New York Times, U.S. officials said the automaker has not done enough to ensure that drivers remained attentive when using the system that can cause vehicles to steer, accelerate, and brake automatically.

This is Tesla’s fourth recall in under two years and the most significant to date. It covers nearly all vehicles the company has manufactured since 2012 in the U.S., including its popular Model Y SUV.

The remedy, which is a software update, will essentially limit areas where Autopilot can operate and increase warnings and alerts to drivers.

The update is supposed to make it more difficult for drivers to ignore warning signs when Autosteer is engaged. It will also incorporate additional controls and alerts, increase the prominence of visual alerts, and potentially suspend the use of the feature if the driver remains inattentive.

This recall follows an extensive investigation into the Autopilot system by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), which began in 2021 following a slew of accidents, some fatal.

Autopilot is designed to control vehicles on its own when on highways. Tesla’s owner’s manual tells drivers not to take their hands off the wheel and to take over if there is a malfunction. Regulators have maintained that Tesla has simply not done enough to prevent drivers from misusing the system.

Specific Problems with Tesla Autopilot

One feature that officials have singled out in the recall is Autosteer, which can keep a car in lane without driver intervention. NHTSA said there may be an increased risk of a crash when Autosteer is engaged, and drivers don’t pay attention to vehicle operation.

To address that particular problem, Tesla said it would wirelessly update its cars to add new, prominently visual alerts to alert drivers to keep their hands on the wheel and pay attention to the road. The company has not been in agreement with NHTSA and continues to maintain that Autopilot makes its vehicles safer.

Many experts have questioned whether Tesla Autopilot actually made driving safer. Some say it’s more of a convenience than a safety feature. NHTSA says its investigation is ongoing.

In October, California regulators ordered Cruise, a subsidiary of General Motors, to stop its driverless taxi service in San Francisco after a series of traffic accidents, including one where a Cruise vehicle dragged a pedestrian 20 feet after impact.

Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg said some companies have pushed out self-driving technology before it has been proven safe.

Brian Chase, senior partner at Bisnar Chase, said self-driving technologies should not be tested on public roadways by putting lives and livelihoods at risk.

“The Autopilot has been extremely misleading because it causes drivers to believe that they don’t have to pay attention to the road when it is engaged,” he said.

“We’ve seen so much evidence of this over the last few years with people attempting to drive while asleep or even inebriated when Autopilot is engaged. This is dangerous not just for drivers and passengers, but pedestrians, bicyclists, and other road users. The Tesla Autopilot technology is not ready for prime time, and this recall has been way overdue.”

NHTSA Investigation and Tesla Autopilot Crashes

NHTSA started its investigation in August 2021 when it began looking into 11 incidents involving Tesla vehicles that were operating with Autosteer engaged. After a series of meetings between Tesla and the agency, the company issued this recall.

NHTSA said over the course of its probe, it has reviewed 956 crashes in which Autopilot was engaged. The agency then zeroed in on 322 crashes, including frontal collisions and situations where Autopilot may have been inadvertently engaged.

There are also a number of civil auto product liability lawsuits involving Autopilot that are currently being litigated. One involves a 2019 Florida crash where a Tesla on Autopilot traveling on a country road ran through a stop sign and struck a parked car killing 22-year-old Naibel Benavides and severely injuring her companion.

Her attorneys have said the recall shows Tesla was aware that Autopilot was being used on roadways where it wasn’t safe but did nothing to restrict where it could be used. That accident occurred when a driver dropped his cell phone and bent down to look at it, trusting Autopilot to steer his Tesla Model S.

However, the car failed to stop at a T-intersection with a flashing red light. Dillon Angulo, who was with Benavides at the time, suffered a traumatic brain injury, a broken pelvis, and a fractured jaw.

Understanding Auto Product Liability Issues

Auto product liability refers to the legal responsibility of manufacturers, distributors, or sellers for defects in automobiles or their components that result in accidents, injuries, or fatalities. These issues encompass design defects, manufacturing flaws, or inadequate warnings about potential risks associated with the vehicle or its parts.

Design defects occur when a flaw exists in the initial blueprint or concept of a vehicle, making it inherently unsafe even when manufactured correctly. Manufacturing defects, on the other hand, arise during the production process, causing specific units to deviate from the intended design, potentially leading to safety hazards.

Inadequate warnings or failures to provide clear instructions about potential risks associated with using the vehicle may also expose manufacturers to liability. This includes insufficient information regarding airbag deployment, braking systems, or other crucial safety features such as Tesla Autopilot.

If you or a loved one has been injured in a Tesla Autopilot crash, you may be able to seek compensation to cover medical expenses, lost income, and other damages resulting from the incident. If you have lost a loved one in such an incident, you may be able to file a wrongful death lawsuit seeking damages as well.

An experienced auto defect lawyer will be able to help you better understand your legal rights and options. These are specialist cases, and you need an attorney on your side that can handle them. Bisnar Chase has a national reputation and an outstanding track record with auto defect cases, including self-driving car accidents and autonomous car crashes.

Source: https://www.nytimes.com/2023/12/13/business/tesla-autopilot-recall.html

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