On September 21, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) announced that Tesla will issue a safety recall for 1.1 million vehicles across all its model lines: Model 3, Model Y, Model S and Model X.
The reason for the recall is the window automatic reversal system may not react correctly after detecting an obstruction, which means that a closing window may exert excessive force by pinching a driver or passenger before retracting, increasing the risk of injury.
As with many previous Tesla recalls, this one does not require that owners of affected vehicles pay a visit to an authorized workshop. The issue will be corrected via an over-the-air software update of the automatic window reversal system, the automaker said in the recall notice.
Everything seems pretty straightforward up to this point, except Tesla CEO Elon Musk is not happy that the NHTSA calls this a recall. In a tweet, the Tesla CEO suggests the NHTSA should evolve with the times and stop calling these OTA software updates “recalls,” as they are not actually physical recalls.
“The terminology is outdated & inaccurate. This is a tiny over-the-air software update. To the best of our knowledge, there have been no injuries.”
Tesla‘s CEO does have a point here as using the term recall in this type of situations can give owners unnecessary stress as they might think they will need to bring their vehicle into service. In addition, calling this a recall can cast a shadow on the brand’s reputation, as most people reading the news will think that Tesla is actually physically recalling 1.1 million vehicles to replace a faulty part.
Despite that, the NHTSA states that manufacturers are required to initiate recalls for any repair, including software updates. According to the safety watchdog’s description, a software update still falls under the definition of a “recall.”
Obviously, Tesla is not the only car manufacturer that has to issue recalls for remedies that only involve over-the-air software updates, but it’s the most prominent one as it has pioneered the use of OTA technology in the automotive industry.
We’d like to hear your thoughts on this, is Elon Musk right to call NHTSA’s terminology “outdated and inaccurate”? If the answer is yes, what do you suggest the agency calls actions involving OTA software updates?