Elon Musk called the NHTSA’s terminology of over-the-air software updates being used as recalls “outdated and inaccurate,” after the agency issued a recall on over one million Tesla EVs due to a window system malfunction.
This morning, the NHTSA issued a Safety Recall Report for 1,096,762 Tesla vehicles, including the 2021-2022 Tesla Model S, 2021-2022 Tesla Model X, 2017-2022 Tesla Model 3, and 2020-2021 Tesla Model Y vehicles. The issue has to do with Tesla’s window automatic reversal system. The NHTSA said, “Affected vehicles may not meet certain automatic window reversal system requirements in FMVSS 118, Section 5 (automatic reversal systems). When closing in circumstances subject to FMVSS 118, Section 5, the window may exert more force than Section 5 permits before retracting. The window may also retract less than the distance required under Section 5.”
Additionally, the agency described the risk, stating, “If a window is closing and detects an obstruction, the condition may increase the risk of a pinching injury to the occupant.”
However, Tesla is not going to need to bring the over one million vehicles into Service Centers to remedy the issue. It can be fixed with a Software Update, which will be sent out by Tesla and downloaded to each affected vehicle over the internet.
Musk believes the terminology of “recall” needs to be updated as vehicles with malfunctions like the window automatic reversal system can be remedied with downloadable fixes:
The terminology leads to a confusing description of the problem, as most people resonate the word “recall,” with an issue that needs to be fixed with a hardware replacement. However, the NHTSA has continued to utilize “recall” to describe these types of issues.
However, the NHTSA told Teslarati in February that manufacturers are required to initiate recalls for any repair, including software updates. According to the agency’s description, a software update still falls under the definition of a “recall.”
Tesla is not the only company that has been embattled with the confusion that is recalls and over-the-air software updates. Ford was able to remedy nearly 49,000 Mustang Mach-E units in June due to a high-voltage main battery contactor malfunction through software updates.