Tesla is recalling almost all vehicles it has sold in the US because some warning lights on the instrument panel are too small.
The agency says the warning lights for the braking, parking and anti-lock braking systems have a smaller font size than required by federal safety standards. This can make crucial safety information difficult to read, increasing the risk of an accident.
Tesla has already started rolling out the software update and owners will be notified by letter starting March 30.
NHTSA says it found the problem during a routine safety audit on January 8.
Tesla has identified three warranty claims that may be related to the problem, but has no reports of crashes or injuries.
According to documents, the update will increase the number of warnings and alerts for drivers.
The agency says the investigation found that Autopilot’s method of ensuring drivers pay attention may be inadequate and could lead to “foreseeable misuse of the system.”
The added checks and alerts will “further encourage the driver to adhere to their ongoing driving responsibility,” the documents say.
But safety experts say that while the recall is a good step, it still holds the driver responsible and doesn’t solve the underlying problem of Autopilot not responding to stationary vehicles. They say Tesla’s driver monitoring system, which relies on detecting hands on the wheel, won’t stop drivers from checking out.
Tesla says on its website that its Autopilot and ‘Full Self-Driving’ systems cannot control the vehicles, and that human drivers must be ready to intervene at all times.
The recall was part of a larger investigation into Tesla’s automated driving systems.
It raised questions about CEO Elon Musk’s claims that he can prove to regulators that cars equipped with ‘Full Self-Driving’ are safer than people, and that people almost never have to touch the controls.
Musk had at one point promised that a fleet of autonomous robotaxis would be in use by 2020. The latest action seems to push that development further into the future.
China’s State Administration for Market Regulation announced the recall in early January. Tesla Motors in Beijing and Shanghai were said to be using remote upgrades to resolve the issues.
The recall is due to problems with the automatic steering assist function and affects 1.6 million imported Tesla Model S, Model X, Model 3 and Model Ys.
When the automatic steering function is enabled, drivers may misuse the combined driving function, increasing the risk of accidents, the statement said.
The recall to fix the door unlock logic controls for imported Model S and Model a collision.
Tesla was the world’s best seller of electric vehicles last year, but China’s BYD beat the company in the fourth quarter. BYD is the leader in the booming Chinese market.
The steering research upgrade, which was also announced in documents Friday, affects more than 334,000 Tesla vehicles.
The investigation was opened in July last year after the agency received a dozen complaints about loss of steering control in Model Y 2023 and three vehicles. Now the agency says it has 115 complaints, and has received another 2,176 after requesting information from the company.
Agency documents state that drivers report loss of steering control, often accompanied by messages indicating that power steering has been reduced or disabled. Some complained about the inability to turn the steering wheel, while others said it required more effort.
A message seeking comment from Tesla was left Friday.
In one case, a driver told NHTSA he was unable to make a right turn and crashed into another vehicle.
The agency said there have been multiple allegations of Teslas blocking intersections or roads. According to consumer complaints, more than fifty vehicles had to be towed.
Many of the complaints reported that the problem occurred between 5 and 55 km/h. The highest reported speed at which a turn was claimed to be impossible was 75 mph, the documents said.
The agency said it is investigating possible defects in the steering rack.