Tesla recalls 50,000 cars that disobey stop signs in self-driving mode

The “rolling stop” feature introduced by Tesla in October meant that cars rolled past stop signs instead of stopping, as many states require by law

Technology 3 February 2022

A driver rides hands-free in a Tesla Motors Inc. Model S vehicle equipped with Autopilot hardware and software in New York, U.S. on Monday, Sept. 19, 2016. The latest overhaul of the car's operating system, known as Tesla 8.0, biggest change is how Autopilot shifts towards a heavier reliance on its radar than its camera to guide the car through traffic. Photographer: Christopher Goodney/Bloomberg via Getty Images

A Tesla Model S in autopilot mode

Christopher Goodney/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Tesla is recalling more than 50,000 cars in the US because the AI behind its self-driving feature acted too aggressively, rolling past stop signs rather than coming fully to a halt as required by law in many states.

The company’s Full Self-Driving code had been continuing through stop signs at up to 5.6 miles per hour.

The US National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) issued a safety recall for 53,822 cars that are currently running firmware version 2020.40.4.10, which contains the “rolling stop” feature. Tesla has agreed to disable it remotely on all affected cars, including its Model 3, Model S, Model X and Model Y.

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The rolling stop feature was introduced by Tesla in October, but the NHTSA says that failing to come to a complete stop “may increase the risk of collision”. A human driver failing to stop completely at stop signs can be given a ticket.

Tesla staff met the NHTSA on 10 and 19 January, before agreeing on 20 January to a recall in “early February”.

Despite the name of the Full Self-Driving feature, the company requires owners to watch at all times and be ready to step in and take control if the software acts dangerously. The code remains in beta, which means it is still undergoing testing, but more than 50,000 people are currently testing it, Tesla told investors last month – most of them in the US.

The news has prompted criticism from campaigners about the safety of autonomous cars. “Our members are concerned that driverless cars and AI are being rolled out too quickly,” says Nick Simmons at UK transport safety charity RoadPeace. “We’d urge a highly cautious and very gradual response.”

The UK Department for Transport didn’t respond to questions about autonomous car trials, and Tesla didn’t respond to a request for comment.

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