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US govt questions Tesla for not recalling cars after updating Autopilot

Tesla did not file recall paperwork when it upgraded its Autopilot software to better recognise parked emergency vehicles, said US highway safety investigators.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration informed Tesla in a letter on Tuesday that if an over-the-internet upgrade mitigates a safety problem, the electric car company must recall the cars.

‘Any manufacturer issuing an over-the-air update that mitigates a defect that poses an unreasonable risk to motor vehicle safety is required to timely file an accompanying recall notice to NHTSA,’ the agency stated in a letter to Eddie Gates, Tesla‚Äôs director of field quality.

The agency also demanded details regarding Tesla’s Full Self-Driving software, which is currently being tested on public roads with a few owners.

The new spat is the latest evidence of rising tensions between Tesla and the body that governs semi-autonomous vehicles. The agency launched an inquiry into Tesla’s Autopilot in August, after receiving several instances of automobiles slamming into emergency vehicles with warning lights flashing that were stopped on highways. The inquiry includes nearly all of Tesla’s vehicles sold in the United States from the start of the 2014 model year.

According to the agency, Tesla released an over-the-internet software upgrade in late September to improve the recognition of emergency vehicle lights in low-light circumstances. The agency also added that Tesla is aware that federal law compels manufacturers to conduct a recall if they discover vehicles or equipment that are unsafe.

The agency wanted details on Tesla’s ‘Emergency Light Detection Update’, which was delivered to some vehicles with the claimed purpose of detecting flashing emergency vehicle lights in low light situations and then responding to said detection with driver notifications and adjustments to the vehicle speed when Autopilot is engaged.

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The letter asks for a summary of the events that prompted the software upgrade, as well as a list of the vehicles that received it and if the restrictions apply to Tesla’s whole fleet. It also inquires if the Palo Alto, California-based firm intends to file recall paperwork. ‘If not, please furnish Tesla’s technical and/or legal basis for declining to do so,’ the agency asks.

As per the agency, Tesla has until November 1 to comply with the order or risk court action and civil fines of more than $114 million.

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