Tesla Recalls 40,000 EVs Over Power Steering Issue Triggered By Potholes

It looks like another challenging week for Elon Musk. Amid the ongoing Twitter drama, Musk's more reliable meal ticket has also hit a sadly literal bump in the road. Tesla has just announced a recall of over 40,000 of its vehicles in the U.S. due to an onboard software calibration issue. In its pre-recall form, that software can completely deactivate a Tesla's power steering assist when it runs over a pothole or particularly rough road surface.

Tesla's latest recall affects Models S and X in model years ranging from 2017 to 2021. All affected cars will require a complete software update to be safe to drive (via Tesla). According to Tesla, the software update should fully resolve the problem. That update has already been remotely installed on 97% of eligible cars, significantly limiting the potential danger. According to the automaker, there have been 314 alerts triggered so far by the power steering glitch, and no injuries or fatalities have been reported. That's the good news.

Tesla's bumps in the road

The bad news is that, where Tesla is concerned, this is getting to be a habit. Recalls have plagued the EV manufacturer in the last few years. Glitches have turned up everywhere from windows to touchscreens to the aforementioned power steering. In 2022 alone, over 3.4 million Teslas have been recalled due to safety concerns (via BBC and Reuters). The problem area seems to be Tesla's reliance on software control. Software glitches have arisen again and again as the primary cause of these recalls — though, as a plus, many of Tesla's recalls are easily resolved by an over-the-air software update, making them only a minor annoyance to drivers. 

Protocol quotes Michael Brooks, head of the Center for Auto Safety, on Tesla's engineering culture: "They seem to like to ask for forgiveness rather than permission a lot." To state the obvious, that's a concern for a company shipping a product with known risks and hard expectations for the degree of safety a customer can expect. Protocol notes that the repeated recalls have drawn close scrutiny from the NHTSA. Whether that will curtail Tesla's risky experimentation or simply slow down its engineering process remains to be seen.