A bad day for Tesla — 2 mn cars recalled in US and a Swedish strike

Tesla is recalling nearly its entire US fleet after authorities flagged an autopilot software glitch. In Sweden, workers threatened to stop picking up Tesla’s garbage amid a labor dispute

Experts say the software update fails to address the real problem, the inability of Teslas to recognise and avoid objects when in autopilot mode. (photo: DW)
Experts say the software update fails to address the real problem, the inability of Teslas to recognise and avoid objects when in autopilot mode. (photo: DW)
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DW

Elon Musk's electric vehicle (EV) manufacturing company Tesla on Wednesday was forced to recall over two million cars — nearly its entire US fleet — after the US National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) found the software governing the vehicle's autopilot mode to be defective.

Tesla will now install software updates on its vehicles to ensure drivers actually pay attention to the road when their vehicle is in autopilot mode.

The NHTSA on Wednesday, 13 December said the updates will increase the frequency of driver alerts as well as limit the areas where the autopilot feature can be used.

The move comes after a two-year period of NHTSA investigations into a series of accidents — some deadly — in which Tesla vehicles were likely in autopilot mode when they crashed.

The NHTSA said Tesla's safeguards were deficient and could lead to, "foreseeable misuse of the system."

Though safety experts welcomed the decision to, "further encourage the driver to adhere to their continuous driving responsibility," they said the software update does not address the core problem Tesla's system has identifying and avoiding obstacles.

The recall affects all Model Y, S, 3 and X Teslas produced between October 5, 2012, and December 7, 2023.

The NHTSA said its investigations into Teslas crashing into emergency vehicles while on autopilot was ongoing Wednesday, "as we monitor the efficacy of Tesla's remedies and continue to work with the automaker to ensure the highest level of safety."

The NHTSA has investigated 35 Tesla crashes since 2016 — including a series of crashes in which Teslas suspected of being on autopilot drove into emergency vehicles. In all, at least 17 people were killed in the incidents.

Union trouble in Scandinavia

Tesla's troubles did not end there, however. In Sweden, the carmaker faces potential strikes at its factories as workers sympathising with mechanics fighting for the right to collective bargaining have threatened to take action against the Texas-based company.

Sweden's Transport Workers' Union on Wednesday, 13 December joined other labor groups in announcing potential work stoppages at Tesla factories across the country. Transport Union members said they will no longer collect garbage for the company until it accepts workers' rights to collective bargaining.

Currently, Swedish mechanics are locked in a battle with Tesla and owner Elon Musk over collective bargaining rights regarding pay and working conditions at the company.

So far, cleaners, dockworkers, drivers, electricians and postal workers have joined the mechanics' cause.

The garbage strike is set to begin on 24 December, should Tesla fail to come to an agreement with the mechanics.

"Tesla can't ignore the norm on the Swedish labor market," said Transport Workers Union President Tommy Wreeth.

Musk and Tesla also suffered a legal setback in a tussle they are currently having with Swedish postal workers acting in solidarity with mechanics.

Tesla had begun picking up license plates directly from the manufacturer to circumvent postal workers' refusal to deliver them.

But an appeals court found Tesla does not have the right to do this, instead kicking the case back down to a lower court for further review.

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Published: 14 Dec 2023, 12:20 PM
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