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Tesla subject of new NHTSA probe over battery software update

The investigation will look into driving range concerns with the Model S and Model X, and if Tesla needed to issue a recall.

2019 Tesla Model S Long Range
Should there have been a recall? NHTSA aims to find out.
Tim Stevens/Roadshow

Earlier this year, owners of 2012-2019 Tesla Model S and Model X electric cars received an over-the-air software update that was meant to address battery management systems. Now, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration wants to know if Tesla should have recalled the cars for a potential defect.

NHTSA published the open investigation documents this week and summarized concerns from some owners that the battery management software update was in response to a potential defect. Further, some owners attest this update also reduced their Tesla's electric driving range. This update happened in one or more over-the-air pushes and began in May 2019.

The potential defect dealt with a fire risk that could occur outside of a crash. This potentially applies to some 2,000 Tesla Model S and Model X cars. NHTSA aims to learn if the automaker failed to file a recall and notify the agency of the potential defect.

Tesla did not immediately respond when Roadshow asked for comment on the investigation.

This isn't the first time owners have expressed their displeasure with the software update. In August, a class-action lawsuit claimed Tesla knew the some 2,000 vehicles were defective and that the company was well aware the update lessened driving range. Tesla's aim is "to avoid providing warranty battery replacements to rightful customers," the lawsuit read in part.

It's not the first time NHTSA has focused on the electric-car maker. Just this week the agency said it had noted numerous incidents involving the new Tesla Smart Summon feature -- part of the automaker's V10 software update for its cars. The feature allows owners to remote-control their Tesla without any driver behind the wheel via an app.

The car will drive to the owners at low speeds and pick them up. However, numerous owners have shared stories on social media that detail issues, near crashes and minor wrecks while using Smart Summon. NHTSA said it's in ongoing contact with Tesla and it continues to gather information about the system and the incidents.

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