Tesla is disabling a self-driving feature in nearly 54,000 vehicles that can prompt cars to autonomously perform a “rolling stop” — a maneuver in which the vehicle moves slowly through a stop sign without coming to a full stop.
As per a safety recall notice issued by the US National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), the consequence of this feature is that “failing to stop at a stop sign can increase the risk of a crash.”
The change was made as an over-the-air software update to Model S, X, 3, and Y vehicles using the beta version of Tesla’s “Full Self-Driving” driver-assist feature, release 2020.40.4.10 or newer, which is already rolling out. (Referring to such software as “self-driving” has become somewhat controversial in the car industry, with other firms distancing themselves from the term over fears it implies a greater degree of control on the part of the software.)
The NHTSA says Tesla introduced the rolling stop functionality last October “in the limited early access FSD Beta population.” As part of these limited updates, Tesla let drivers select different “profiles” for their cars’ self-driving features. Drivers could choose between “Chill,” “Average,” and “Assertive” modes. The last category was accompanied with a warning that the vehicle may “perform more frequent lane changes, will not exit passing lanes, and may perform rolling stops.” It’s not clear if these driver profiles will be completely removed, or if only the rolling stop feature in the “Assertive” mode will be disabled.
Documents submitted by the NHTSA note that the rolling stop feature allowed Tesla’s cars to “travel through all-way-stop intersections at up to 5.6 mph before coming to a complete stop” if certain criteria are met. These include that there are no “relevant moving cars” and no “relevant pedestrians or bicyclists” near the intersection; that there is “sufficient visibility for the vehicle,” and that roads at the intersection have a speed limit of 30mph or less.
Tesla says it is not aware of any collisions, injuries, or fatalities related to the use of the feature, and says it will notify affected owners by a letter mailed before March 28, 2022.
In a statement given to The Verge, the NHTSA said: “Following discussions with NHTSA about our concerns, Tesla has informed the agency that it will conduct a recall of the ‘Rolling Stop’ feature as one of the functionalities of the Driving Profile in its Full Self Driving software. In a new software update, a ‘Rolling Stop’ will no longer be possible. NHTSA maintains regular discussions with all manufacturers to discuss potential safety concerns of these types of systems.”
Update, 9:37AM ET: The story has been updated with a statement from the NHTSA.
Update, February 2nd, 8:29AM ET: The story has been updated to note that the updated software is now available.