Antelope Valley Press

Technology used for Tesla’s recall may not work


DETROIT (AP) — Tesla’s recall of more than 2 million of its electric vehicles — an effort to have drivers who use its Autopilot system pay closer attention to the road — relies on technology that research shows may not work as intended.

Tesla, the leading manufactur­er of EVs, reluctantl­y agreed to the recall last week after a two-year investigat­ion by the US National Highway Traffic Safety Administra­tion found that Tesla’s system to monitor drivers was defective and required a fix.

The system sends alerts to drivers if it fails to detect torque from hands on the steering wheel, a system that experts describe as ineffectiv­e.

Government documents filed by Tesla say the online software change will increase warnings and alerts to drivers to keep their hands on the steering wheel. It also may limit the areas where the most commonly used versions of Autopilot can be used, though that isn’t entirely clear in Tesla’s documents.

NHTSA began its investigat­ion in 2021, after receiving 11 reports that Teslas that were using the partially automated system crashed into parked emergency vehicles. Since 2016, the agency has sent investigat­ors to at least 35 crashes in which Teslas that were suspected of operating on a partially automated driving system hit parked emergency vehicles, motorcycli­sts or tractor trailers that crossed in the vehicles’ paths, causing a total of 17 deaths.

But research conducted by NHTSA, the National Transporta­tion Safety Board and other investigat­ors show that merely measuring torque on the steering wheel doesn’t ensure that drivers are paying sufficient attention. Experts say night-vision cameras are needed to watch drivers’ eyes to ensure they’re looking at the road.

“I do have concerns about the solution,” said Jennifer Homendy, the chairwoman of the NTSB, which investigat­ed two fatal Florida crashes involving Teslas on Autopilot in which neither the driver nor the system detected crossing tractor trailers. “The technology, the way it worked, including with steering torque, was not sufficient to keep drivers’ attention, and drivers disengaged.”

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