Tesla Troubles? What you Need to Know about Safety

By Aitken Aitken Cohn

Tesla has made electric vehicles (EVs) very sexy—and in many ways, that’s a good thing. There’s no denying their “cool factor.” but if you have a Tesla or are thinking about buying one, there are safety considerations to be aware of—perhaps even more so if you have a young, inexperienced driver in your household.

Tesla scores exceptionally high with tech-savvy, environmentally conscious GenZers, considered the first generation of “digital natives,” who value innovation and disruptive ideas and are open to developments like autonomous vehicles.

But is exciting technology getting ahead of safety?

Recent recalls raise questions about some of Tesla’s more novel features.

As of the end of February, in 2022 alone, there had already been four significant recalls, totaling nearly 1.5 million vehicles.

At the end of February, Tesla recalled close to 579,000 cars to shut down the Boombox function—music software added in late 2020, enabling sound to be played over external speakers. In addition to music, the driver could play unusual noises like a goat bleating, an ice cream truck, applause, a sneeze, and others best left to the imagination.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) found that the feature violated federal “quiet car” regulations. These laws ensure that hybrids and electric vehicles, which make no exhaust noise, emit pedestrian warning sounds at speeds up to 18.6 M.P.H. Car noise naturally increases due to tire sounds, wind buffeting, etc. Boombox’s novelty noises obscured the mandatory artificial sounds that alert pedestrians to a moving car.

A few weeks earlier, another recall involving 817,000 Teslas was issued when it was discovered that the seat belt reminder chime might not sound under certain conditions.

Within the same month, Tesla issued another recall for 53,822 vehicles in the U.S. involving Full Self-Driving beta software because some models may perform only a “rolling stop” at intersections and not come to a complete stop.

An issue necessitating a recall of 27,000 vehicles also arose over the last two winters among certain newer model Teslas. During freezing weather, a heat pump problem was causing a sudden loss of heat in the cabin. The heat pump issue also impacted the defrosting system, which presented visibility issues and could increase the risk of collision.

Further, in the last weeks of 2021, NHTSA opened an official investigation into “Passenger Play,” Tesla’s arcade game feature.

Early in December, the New York Times reported that newly issued software, “games,” can be played by a driver or a passenger in full view raising new questions about whether Tesla is compromising safety as it rushes to add new technologies and features to the car.

The game function is displayed in front of the dashboard, and the video games did not deactivate when the car was in motion, creating hazardous distraction potential. Tesla subsequently rolled back the feature under pressure from the NHTSA probe.

Last Fall, Consumer Reports evaluated Tesla’s Safety Score feature, intended to measure driver safety and qualify owners for the newest edition of the Full Self-Driving software. But in reality, C.R. found that it was causing some drivers to “game the system” to achieve a high score. “Some Tesla drivers were discussing on Twitter how they engaged in unsafe driving practices, such as coasting through stop signs or accelerating through yellow lights, to avoid lowering their score from braking too hard,” C.R. says.

Though many experts believe that the “gamification” of safety to incentivize good driving and improve performance is a smart idea overall, Consumer Reports says Tesla is currently using flawed metrics that could have the opposite effect.

It’s easy to see how any one of these issues could cause problems for a driver—and the dangers of enticing technology getting ahead of itself. If you or someone you love has been injured in an accident involving a Tesla, the experienced Orange County and Riverside County car accident lawyers of Aitken * Aitken * Cohn to help you. We do not shy away from complex claims and help clients recover just compensation for losses and injuries incurred in car crashes.