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Tesla recalls another 817,000 cars over a seatbelt warning flaw

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WTF?! Tesla sure has been generating a lot of bad press. It has issued two safety recalls this last week and a total of three in the last month. Another involving “phantom braking” is probably coming soon. Despite being the front runner in the EV market, it does not look good to have so many safety issues in such a short period.

Tesla is recalling over 817,000 vehicles over a flaw that causes the seatbelt chimes to malfunction. The safety recall includes all Model 3 and Model Y cars. Model S and Model X vehicles 2021 and newer are also affected.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration describes the problem as a software error that causes the car not to warn the driver when the seatbelt is disengaged when starting the vehicle. Tesla further determined that the fault is triggered when the seatbelt indicator is interrupted.

For instance, the warning sounds if the drive cycle starts, and then the driver gets out of the car. When reentering and starting it again, the seatbelt indicator will not trigger because the software has already registered the required check and has not reset.

“When the driver starts the vehicle without buckling their seat belt, software monitors the current state and warns the driver to buckle their seat belt, and records that it has warned the driver. However, if the drive cycle state changes (e.g., driver exits the vehicle) during this reminder, the software erroneously stays in the state where it has already warned the driver, and does not reset its state to prepare for the next warning.”

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Testers in South Korea first spotted the problem on January 6. Tesla looked into it and decided to go through the recall process on January 25. Since this is a software issue, owners do not have to take any action to resolve the problem. Tesla will issue an over-the-air fix sometime within the next several days.

The software fault is relatively minor, and Tesla did not discover any incidents resulting in injury. However, the recall notice is terrible optics, considering it follows another that Tesla addressed earlier this week. That recall involved the inclusion of a rolling-stop feature in its full-self-driving (FSD) software.

It is also the third recall in just over a month. At the end of December, Tesla recalled almost half a million cars because a faulty latch was causing the front trunk lid in some vehicles to open unexpectedly, which could obscure the driver’s view of the road. Additionally, more than 100 people have reported “phantom braking” issues over the last three months.

And as if all that were not enough, Tesla’s FSD software has suffered sharp criticism and increased scrutiny over allegations that it commits at least one critical driving error every eight minutes. Elon Musk claims that the company making these accusations makes software for Tesla’s competitors and is biased against his company.

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Putting aside the argument over critical driving errors, it does appear by the recalls alone that Tesla is suffering from a software quality-control problem. Perhaps Musk should refrain from calling the Tesla robot “the most important in-development product” and start focusing some effort on fixing software that literally puts people’s lives at stake.

Image credit: Steve Jurvetson (CC BY 2.0)

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