As of early February, Tesla has decided to recall more than 53,000 cars manufactured between 2017 and 2022 because of an illegal programming “feature.” The manufacturer has granted its cars with Full Self-Driving (FSD) capabilities the ability to perform a “rolling stop” at all-way stop intersections. Rolling stops are illegal in every state.
According to Tesla, this rolling stop feature was intentional. The company claims that the ability to perform a rolling stop is entirely safe. The feature is intended to activate if the car determines the intersection meets certain conditions:
- The car’s FSD feature is active
- The vehicle is approaching an all-way stop
- There are no visible cars, pedestrians, or bikes near the intersection
- The roads near the intersection all have speed limits below 30 mph
If the vehicle determines all of these factors are true, the car will not come to a complete stop at the stop sign. Instead, it will slow down to a speed of 5.6 mph and continue scanning its surroundings. As long as all of the conditions above remain true, the car will continue through the intersection.
This rolling stop feature is part of Tesla’s driving profiles. Drivers who choose to have their car drive more assertively give the vehicle permission to perform a rolling stop. In other words, Tesla has built in a feature that allows its cars to automatically break the law.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has obvious concerns about this software. The NHTSA began investigating the feature based on both the fact that rolling stops are a crime as well as worries that Teslas would not be able to accurately identify whether an intersection was actually empty. Considering that in the past six months, Tesla has been forced to issue recalls for cars that failed to recognize parked emergency vehicles and crash into them, this is a valid concern.
Tesla was not ordered to issue the recall for rolling stops. Instead, the company chose to perform the recall on its own shortly after the start of the NHTSA investigation. Tesla owners should receive notices about the recall in the mail by the end of March.
What the Tesla Recall Means for Drivers
Unlike most traditional recalls, this fix isn’t handled by in-person mechanics. Instead, owners will need to prepare their cars to receive “over-the-air” software updates. The manufacturer will be releasing a new firmware patch that should disable the feature entirely.
The problem is that this over-the-air update won’t be available until the end of March when owners are sent the mailed recall notice. Until then, drivers may still be using the rolling stop feature without understanding the dangers.
Furthermore, it’s not clear whether drivers or the manufacturer will be held liable for rolling stops. It appears that many jurisdictions may consider the person operating the vehicle to be responsible, though.
This is because states like California that permit Tesla’s FSD beta on the roads still require a human to be in the driver’s seat. The person is supposed to pay attention to the road and take over if the car attempts to do something dangerous or illegal. Under that interpretation, drivers who still have the rolling stop feature enabled may receive tickets or fines for failing to stop their car from breaking the law.
What Tesla Owners Need to Do Next
If you own a Tesla and use the Full Self-Driving feature, you need to take action now. Your car’s basic programming could be putting you and other road users at risk of serious accidents. Even if the feature works as intended when you use it, you could still face legal action if you let your car break traffic laws.
You can protect yourself in the meantime, though. While the feature won’t be completely disabled until nearly April, you can still change your car’s settings to reduce the chances it rolls through an intersection.
The rolling stop is featured in Tesla’s “Assertive” driving mode. This mode causes your car to take more aggressive actions on the road. According to the menu included in the vehicle itself, this includes “a smaller follow distance, perform more frequent speed lane changes, will not exit passing lanes, and may perform rolling stops.” Turning off “Assertive” driving causes your car to take fewer risky actions and follow traffic laws to the letter.
To turn off this mode, open the Driving menu on your Tesla’s front media station. Under this menu, look for “Full Self Driving (Beta).” You have two options: either turn off the Full Self-Driving beta entirely or set the self-driving profile to “Chill” or “Average.”
If you turn off the FSD beta, you will have to drive the car yourself. Simply changing the setting from Assertive will still allow your car to pilot itself without riskier behaviors. Either way, you’re no longer putting your safety and legal standing under the control of vehicles that have failed to recognize ambulances and crashed into them at speed.
Don’t Let Tesla Put You In Danger
After all, Tesla’s FSD technology is still so new that it simply hasn’t had the time to face the tests performed on other car components. Despite this, the manufacturer has gotten cocky and is trying to slip in features that actively break the law. If you own a Tesla, the company has possibly caused you to violate road laws without your knowledge.
Rolling stops are illegal for a reason. The law considers these kinds of stops dangerous enough that it doesn’t permit trained human drivers to perform them. Tesla’s FSD vehicles are nowhere near as trustworthy as the average human driver yet, so they obviously shouldn’t be allowed to break that law either.
The recall should put a stop to this behavior. You can get ahead of the recall by following the instructions above. You can also learn more about how to handle your flawed Tesla by getting in touch with the expert California lemon lawyers at Johnson & Buxton today.