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Why Is There a Recall of Self-Driving Tesla Vehicles Underway?

Nichol & Associates, Attorneys at Law Feb. 9, 2022

The so-called self-driving mode is one of the biggest technological advances of the Tesla lineup. Some of their cars and SUVs have software that allowed the vehicles to operate semi-autonomously.

In fact, the company has gone so far as to create multiple forms of self-driving programming. The mode you set determines how the vehicle drives. People can choose extra calm driving, normal driving or assertive driving depending on their personality type and destination.

As you might imagine, the assertive option for self-driving mode has prompted no small amount of controversy. Most recently, it has triggered a recall because this mode features rolling stops rather than full stops at intersections.

Rolling Stops May Violate Traffic Laws and Could Cause Crashes

Regulators have paid close attention to the software that runs the self-driving mode on various Tesla models. Oversight of testing and strict compliance with traffic laws were among the requirements for Tesla including self-driving mode on its vehicles.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration announced the recall based on the risk posed by Rolling stops on February 1, 2022. Roughly 54,000 Tesla cars and SUVs are subject to this recall. The vehicle manufacturer has already begun rolling out software patches that will eliminate a vehicle’s programming to perform rolling stops.

The concern with this specific driving tactic is obvious. The law in most states requires that vehicles come to complete stops at intersections even when there are no other vehicles present. If the vehicle makes a decision not to fully stop, other drivers nearby might incorrectly guess the intention of the vehicle, leading to a crash. In a scenario involving software making a decision rather than a driver, there could be some liability concerns for the manufacturer.

Self-Driving Vehicles Represent a Significant Risk of Products Liability

In theory, self-driving vehicles could be safer than typical vehicles because many crashes are the result of basic human error. Still, with the technology being quite new, oversights and mistakes and its development could easily lead to major liability for manufacturers.

Identifying elements like proprietary software that could lead to product liability claims can help those hurt by poorly-designed vehicles seek full compensation for the losses that they suffer in a crash.