Tesla recalls over 575,000 EVs due to Boombox function

The EV maker appears to be under increasing scrutiny from the federal government.

Chris Paukert Former executive editor / Cars
Following stints in TV news production and as a record company publicist, Chris spent most of his career in automotive publishing. Mentored by Automobile Magazine founder David E. Davis Jr., Paukert succeeded Davis as editor-in-chief of Winding Road, a pioneering e-mag, before serving as Autoblog's executive editor from 2008 to 2015. Chris is a Webby and Telly award-winning video producer and has served on the jury of the North American Car and Truck of the Year awards. He joined the CNET team in 2015, bringing a small cache of odd, underappreciated cars with him.
Chris Paukert
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Tesla's Model S flagship is among the vehicles under recall.


Tesla is recalling over 575,000 EVs over its Boombox function, which may obscure federally mandated Pedestrian Warning System sounds. 

According to a new National Highway Traffic Safety Administration filing, the electric car manufacturer's feature, which enables vehicle occupants to play preset or custom sounds through an externally mounted speaker, can make it hard to hear the audible tone that all EVs are legally required to emit while in motion. These PWS sound signatures are designed to ensure pedestrians and cyclists can hear electric vehicles, which typically make far less noise than their internal-combustion counterparts when in motion.

The recall affects 578,607 examples of the following vehicles:

2020-2022 Tesla Model S
2020-2022 Tesla Model X
2020-2022 Tesla Model Y
2017-2022 Tesla Model 3

According to documents related to the NHTSA recall, Tesla's Boombox function violates Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards 141, which established operating requirements for pedestrian alert noises for EVs and hybrids. The regulation "...prohibits manufacturers from altering or modifying the sound emitting capability of the pedestrian warning system ('PWS'), through which the pedestrian alert sounds emit." The same filing acknowledges that "Boombox can enhance the conspicuity of the vehicle to pedestrians" (e.g. when the driver calls out to a passer-by directly), but notes that the way Boombox operates is still noncompliant with the law.

Tesla is unaware of any crashes, injuries or fatalities stemming from this function.

Refreshed Tesla Model S has a Knight Rider steering wheel

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Tesla introduced this Boombox feature in December of 2020 as part of an annual holiday update, but according to documents related to the recall campaign, NHTSA didn't inquire with the automaker about the technology for over a full year. Washington authorities first issued an information request on Jan. 15, 2021. On Jan. 29, after further communications and investigation, Tesla agreed to voluntarily disable Boombox when its vehicles are not in Park mode.

This is the fourth recall for Tesla in recent weeks involving the company's entire line of current production vehicles. The electric car company has come under increasing federal scrutiny for its business practices and vehicles, particularly around its controversially named partially automated driver-assist technology, Full Self Driving.

Like the previous recalls for a heat pump problem, a seat belt chime and Full Self Driving's illegal rolling-stop programming, this Boombox recall fix is being administered through a free Over The Air update. While owners of affected vehicles are not expected to be notified of this recall campaign until an April 1 mailer, the OTA update has already been rolling out wirelessly. The free repair is not expected to require owners bring in their vehicle for service.

Watch this: A reality check on Tesla Full Self-Driving: What it is and how to get it

Concerned owners can call Tesla customer service at 1-877-798-3752 for more information.

The rise of OTA update fixes to such problems suggests that new, clarifying terminology from the federal government for these types of virtual, software-based actions may be in order -- at least in cases where there is no need to service a vehicle in person and no actual mechanical fixes are required. 

Tesla did not immediately respond to Roadshow's request for comment on this issue. The automaker no longer operates a public relations department that would typically field such requests.