Tesla’s 2-million-vehicle Autopilot “recall” involved the company releasing software version 2023.44.30 as a free over-the-air update to affected vehicles. With their updated software in place, Tesla’s electric vehicles would be able to display more prominent alerts to drivers who are using features like Autopilot and Full Self-Driving, among other things.
Considering the fact that the Autopilot recall was the result of a years-long investigation from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), the changes that were required by the safety agency were surprisingly minor. For one, the recall did not temper down or remove any Autopilot or FSD features. It simply made the features more difficult to abuse.
But a 2-million-vehicle Tesla recall is still sensationalist news, and in a recent series of posts, US Senator Richard Blumenthal opted to make his stance known. The Senator noted that the NHTSA recall is far from sufficient, and that the agency “must put its legal muscle where its mouth is.” Blumenthal’s comments caught quite a bit of criticism considering its tone, which was notably alarmist for an over-the-air software update.
The record of Tesla crashes, fatalities & injuries should be bone chilling to regulators. Musk mocking them is hardly cause for comfort or complacency. NHTSA must put its legal muscle where its mouth is.— Richard Blumenthal (@SenBlumenthal) December 16, 2023
“This Tesla recall is only a first step—far from sufficient. NHTSA must meet the breadth of Tesla Autopilot safety flaws—virtually every Tesla on American roads is now under recall—with real action & enforcement. Many use features on roads where they weren’t designed to work reliably. This danger puts everyone at risk. The record of Tesla crashes, fatalities & injuries should be bone chilling to regulators. Musk mocking them is hardly cause for comfort or complacency. NHTSA must put its legal muscle where its mouth is,” Blumenthal wrote.
Among those who responded to the US Senator’s comments was Tesla VP of Public Policy and Business Development Rohan Patel. As per Patel, the Tesla team is looking forward to working even with its most aggressive critics, though the company also stands by its data, which shows that systems like Autopilot — when used as intended and not abused — are significantly safer than a human driver.
In case anyone is wondering, yes we have made earnest attempts by other means to educate and provide our best data and safety evidence. Figured I’d give X a try also!— Rohan Patel (@rohanspatel) December 19, 2023
“Apparently Senator Blumenthal missed my previous post below, but we’ll continue to try and correct his misunderstandings and misstatements. If the Senator took the time to meet with our hardware and software safety teams, he wouldn’t just get an education. He’d be inspired by their work. If I were his constituent in Connecticut, I’d at least want him educated on the data and facts.
“In case anyone is wondering, yes we have made earnest attempts by other means to educate and provide our best data and safety evidence. Figured I’d give X a try also!” the Tesla VP wrote.
While Elon Musk has mostly served as Tesla’s de facto spokesperson over the years, it is pretty encouraging to see other executives step up and provide context and insights about the company’s data and its technologies. With Musk essentially playing the role of a joker in the world’s deck of cars today, after all, executives such as Patel and IR Head Martin Viecha, who are well-versed in social media, could express Tesla’s stance on issues — all without the usual Elon Musk drama. And that, ultimately, is something that the EV maker needs at this point.
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