Tesla Model S

Tesla recalls nearly 580,000 vehicles over ‘Boombox’ function, as scrutiny intensifies

Image credit: Melpomenem | Dreamstime.com

Tesla is recalling nearly 580,000 vehicles in the US because a 'Boombox' function can play sounds over an external speaker and obscure audible warnings for pedestrians.

The recall is the fourth to be made public in the last two weeks as US watchdog the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) increases its scrutiny of the nation’s largest electric vehicle maker. In two of the recalls, Tesla made decisions that break safety laws, while the others were down to software errors.

The NHTSA said on its website on Thursday that the cars and SUVs have what Tesla calls a 'Boombox' function that allows drivers to play sounds while the vehicles are moving. This breaches federal safety standards that require pedestrian warning noises for electric cars, which make little noise when moving, the agency says.

The agency says the problem will be repaired with an over-the-air software update that will disable the 'Boombox' function. It says the function can be used while the Teslas are in drive, neutral or reverse modes.

The recall covers certain 2020 to 2022 Tesla Model X, S, and Y vehicles, as well as 2017 to 2022 Model 3s. A message was left with Tesla by the Press Association, seeking comment on the NHTSA's announcement, but no response has been forthcoming to date. The company has already disbanded its entire media relations department.

Last week, Tesla had to recall nearly 54,000 vehicles equipped with the so-called 'Full Self-Driving' software that allowed the vehicles to run through stop signs at low speeds without coming to a complete halt. Selected Tesla owners are already 'beta testing' the software on public roads, but the cars can’t technically drive themselves despite the software's name.

Tesla also had to recall more than 800,000 vehicles because seatbelt reminder chimes may not have sounded when the vehicles were started and the driver was not fastened in.

Additionally, nearly 27,000 vehicles were recalled this week because the cabin heating system may not have been defrosting windshields quickly enough. All vehicles were due to be fixed with online software updates.

Safety advocates and automated vehicle experts say Tesla is pushing the boundaries of safety to see what it can get away with, with the NHTSA now pushing back.

After an NHTSA inquiry in December 2021, Tesla disabled a function that let drivers play video games on centre touchscreens while the vehicles were moving.

In the previous month, the NHTSA said it was looking into a complaint from a California Tesla driver that the 'Full Self-Driving' software caused a crash. The driver complained to the agency that a Model Y went into the wrong lane and was hit by another vehicle.

The SUV gave the driver an alert halfway through the turn and the driver tried to turn the wheel to avoid other traffic, according to the complaint. However, the car reportedly took control and “forced itself into the incorrect lane”, the driver said. No-one was hurt in the incident.

The NHTSA is also investigating why Tesla cars using the company’s less-sophisticated partially automated driver-assist system, erroneously named 'Autopilot', have repeatedly crashed into emergency service vehicles parked on roads.

The agency opened its investigation in August 2021, citing 12 crashes in which Teslas driving on 'Autopilot' hit parked police and fire vehicles. In the crashes under investigation, at least 17 people were hurt and one was killed.

In its latest earnings release, Tesla said that 'Full Self-Driving' software is now being tested by owners in nearly 60,000 vehicles in the US. In the third quarter, it was believed to be only around 2,000 cars, representing a significant increase. The software, which costs $12,000 (£8,841), will accelerate Tesla’s profitability, the company said.

Tuesday’s recall is the 15th by Tesla since January 2021, according to NHTSA records.

In May 2021, Tesla was found guilty by a Norwegian court of throttling charging speeds and limiting the maximum capacity of its electric vehicle batteries. The company was ordered to pay 136,000 kroner (£11,500) to thousands of customers.

Meanwhile, in Finland, one Tesla owner was so outraged at the exorbitant cost of replacing the degraded battery pack in his Tesla Model S that he famously blew up the car in a controlled explosion in a quarry.

Sign up to the E&T News e-mail to get great stories like this delivered to your inbox every day.

Recent articles