The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has launched a probe into Tesla‘s 2023 Model 3 and Model Y vehicles following multiple reports of steering control loss while driving. With approximately 280,000 cars potentially impacted, this investigation raises concerns about the safety and reliability of Tesla’s popular electric vehicles. As the scrutiny intensifies, the company faces challenges in addressing defect investigations, recalls, and potential legal consequences, prompting a closer look at Tesla’s safety practices and unique ability to rectify defects through software updates.
According to a report by CNBC, the NHTSA has received a total of 12 complaints, with five people alleging an inability to steer their vehicles and seven others reporting power loss that resulted in steering difficulties. One harrowing account stated that the steering froze in a straight position while driving, rendering the car immovable except in a straight line. Restarting the vehicle did not resolve the issue, leading the driver to seek towing services to a Tesla service center.
The recent investigation adds to the mounting concerns surrounding Tesla’s vehicles. Notably, the NHTSA has been looking into reports of steering wheel detachments in Model Y SUVs during operation. Additionally, over 800 complaints have been filed regarding “phantom braking,” wherein Tesla vehicles suddenly brake in response to invisible hazards, raising questions about the effectiveness of the advanced driver-assist systems.
Tesla has not been immune to legal actions either, as some vehicle owners have filed lawsuits over the phantom braking issue. The company has also faced a potential recall of its Autopilot and Full Self-Driving products due to accidents involving Tesla vehicles colliding with stationary emergency vehicles. This has prompted investigations by various law enforcement agencies, including the California attorney general and the US Department of Justice.
While all automakers experience defect investigations and recalls, Tesla stands out for its ability to address certain issues through software updates. This distinguishing factor offers Tesla an advantage in resolving problems without the need for physical interventions. Notably, the company issued an over-the-air software update to 1.1 million vehicles in China to address braking and acceleration problems. This approach, however, raises questions about the long-term reliability and safety implications of software-based solutions.
Despite the advantage of software updates, Tesla faces a higher number of recalls compared to other automakers. In 2022, there were 400 recalls impacting over 25 million vehicles, and remarkably, Tesla occupied four of the top five spots on the list compiled by research firm iSeeCars.com. The prevalence of recalls indicates that Tesla’s efforts to address defects might not be entirely eliminating potential safety risks.