Elon Musk recently critiqued the definition of a “recall” as Tesla works to ship a fix for its Full Self-Driving Beta program through an Over-the-Air update.
Tesla is one of the few companies that fixes most of its vehicle issues through software updates that can be downloaded to a vehicle with an internet connection.
Tesla owners have argued through the past few years that the company’s software fixes should not be labeled as “recalls” because of the negative connotation of the term. Recalls usually push consumers to think that something physical is wrong with the vehicle and that a technician must repair the vehicle.
However, Tesla has fixed everything from windshield defrosting issues, to backup camera delays, to solving rolling stops in the FSD Beta with software updates. In 2022, 12 of its 19 recalls were fixed by software updates, while 6 required physical repairs to just over 31,400 vehicles. The final recall was only applicable to a single Model X vehicle.
In September, Musk said that the terminology of a recall was “outdated and inaccurate,” and the NHTSA challenged this with its current recall definition, stating that anything that requires a repair, including software updates, is technically a recall.
Tesla recalled 362,000 vehicles on February 16 for issues with the FSD Beta suite. “The FSD Beta system may allow the vehicle to act unsafe around intersections, such as traveling straight through an intersection while in a turn-only lane, entering a stop sign-controlled intersection without coming to a complete stop, or proceeding into an intersection during a steady yellow traffic signal without due caution,” the recall said.
As more vehicles can be fixed with software updates, and with Tesla specifically fixing more than 50 percent of its recalls with downloadable patches, people are still under the belief the terminology needs to be updated.
“Seems like there should be terminology introduced to differentiate between recalls and software updates,” Sam Korvus of ARK Invest said. “Because you know, one requires something to be recalled and the other doesn’t.”
“Definitely. The word “recall” for an over-the-air software update is anachronistic and just flat wrong!”
Definitely. The word “recall” for an over-the-air software update is anachronistic and just flat wrong!
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) February 16, 2023
Ford issued its first Over-the-Air software fix last year, remedying nearly 49,000 Ford Mustang Mach-E units due to a high-voltage main battery contactor malfunction.
Tesla is not the only automaker that stands to gain from updated terminology. However, the NHTSA has, at least in the past, been unwilling to budge on the idea.
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