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

DETROIT (AP) — Tesla is recalling nearly 54,000 cars and SUVs because their “Full Self-Driving” software lets them drive through stop signs without coming to a complete stop.

Documents released Tuesday by US security regulators say Tesla will disable the feature with a software update over the internet. The “rolling stop” function allows vehicles to pass through intersections with stop signs in any direction at up to 5.6 miles per hour.

Tesla agreed to the recall after two meetings with National Highway Traffic Safety Administration officials, documents show. Tesla said it is not aware of any accidents or injuries caused by a feature.

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

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

A firmware version to disable rolling stops should be sent in early February.

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

Police will ticket drivers for ignoring stop signs in most states. A spokesperson for the Governors Highway Safety Association, which represents state highway safety offices, said he was not aware of any states allowing roll stops.

NHTSA has said in documents that failure to stop for a sign can increase the risk of a crash.

Safety advocates complain that Tesla should not be allowed to test vehicles in traffic with untrained drivers and that Tesla software can malfunction, putting other motorists and pedestrians at risk. Most other automakers with similar software test with drivers trained in human safety.

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

Owners will receive the required notification letters on March 28.

The “rolling stop” feature allows Teslas to drive through stop signs in any direction as long as the owner has enabled the feature. Vehicles must be under 5.6 mph approaching the intersection, and no “relevant” moving cars, pedestrians or cyclists can be detected nearby. All roads leading to the intersection were to have speed limits of 30 mph or less, according to the documents. The Teslas would then be allowed to cross the intersection at 0.1 mph to 5.6 mph without coming to a complete stop.

Alain Kornhauser, director of the faculty of autonomous vehicle engineering at Princeton University, said the recall is an example of NHTSA doing its job as the nation’s traffic safety watchdog. The recall “shows they can be effective even though Tesla should have been more responsible in the first place,” he said.

In November, NHTSA said it was looking into a complaint from a Tesla driver that “Full Self-Driving” software caused a crash. The driver complained to the agency that the Model Y had pulled into the wrong lane and was hit by another vehicle. The SUV gave the driver an alert halfway through the turn, and the driver attempted to steer to avoid other vehicles, according to the complaint. 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, Calif., according to the complaint.

In December, Tesla agreed to update its less sophisticated “Autopilot” driver assistance system after NHTSA opened an investigation. The company has agreed to no longer allow video games to be played on central touchscreens while its vehicles are in motion.

The agency is also investigating why Teslas on Autopilot repeatedly crashed into emergency vehicles parked on the roads.

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