Tesla recalls over 54,000 models over FSD update that disobeys stop signs

NHTSA apparently didn't care for Full Self-Driving's "Assertive" mode, which would deliberately roll through stop signs under certain conditions.

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
2 min read

Remember when we told you last month that Tesla's latest software update to its Full Self-Driving tech might result in vehicles that intentionally -- and illegally -- run stop signs? It appears the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration took issue with the electric car company's new "Assertive" mode's capabilities. On Tuesday, the government safety agency posted a notice detailing the recall of 53,822 Model SModel XModel 3 and Model Y vehicles due to the issue.

The new setting for Tesla's still-in-beta driver-assist technology specifically calls out that vehicles with the mode activated "... will have a smaller follow distance, perform more frequent speed lane changes, will not exit passing lanes and may perform rolling stops."

That last bit -- a deliberate decision by Tesla programmers to allow vehicles to slow-roll through stops -- is what is triggering the recall of these 2016-2022 Model S and Model X EVs, as well as 2017-2022 Model 3 and 2020-2022 Model Y vehicles. 

According to related NHTSA documents, the uncorrected software "allows the vehicle to travel through all-way-stop intersections at up to 5.6 mph before coming to a complete stop, if certain conditions are first met." Those conditions include an absence of "relevant" moving cars, pedestrians or bicyclists detected near the intersection, and all entering roads must have speed limits of 30 mph or less. It's not clear how often this version of FSD engages in dangerous or illegal driving behavior. 

Tesla EVs with the firmware release 2020.40.10 or newer that include the FSD Beta are affected by this recall campaign.

Refreshed Tesla Model S has a Knight Rider steering wheel

See all photos

The update enabling Assertive mode was released on Oct. 20, 2021, and NHTSA and Tesla met to "discuss the functionality" on Jan. 10 and 19, 2022. On Jan. 20, "a recall determination was voluntarily made to disable the functionality, beginning with firmware release 2021.44.30.15 and newer releases."

The good news is the rolling-stop functionality should be disabled as easily as it was added -- via over-the-air update, free of charge. No visit to a Tesla authorized service center should be necessary.

As of Jan. 27, Tesla says it is unaware of any crashes, injuries or fatalities related to this issue. Tesla does not operate a public relations team and did not respond to Roadshow's request for comment for this story.

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