Tesla fixed the taillights on more than 321,000 of its most popular electric vehicles with an over-the-air (OTA) update released on Nov. 6, the NHTSA disclosed Monday.
The taillights could illuminate intermittently on one or both sides of the 2023 Tesla Model 3 and 2020-2023 Tesla Model Y, Tesla reported. A “firmware anomaly” could cause false fault detections as the vehicle preconditions or starts. A flickering or inoperative taillight could result in reduced visibility at night and increase the risk of a collision, which warrants a recall.
The brake lights and turn signals were not affected by the anomaly, however.
The issue was first detected late in October in markets outside the U.S., and Tesla tracked the cause of the issue to a firmware release. Tesla identified three warranty claims in the U.S. but no field reports in the week between when the cause was detected and the recall OTA was made.
The OTA fix reflects the good and the bad of the modern connected car. A firmware release can throw a system out of whack, but an OTA can fix it. More new vehicles can be corrected or fixed with an OTA, which is an increasingly convenient solution that avoids a trip to a service center or Tesla store.
Earlier this month, Volkswagen Group recalled 224,700 VW and Audi cars and SUVs with a software update to fix the tire-pressure monitoring system, but owners had to take the car to a dealer to complete the update. Tesla owners can accept this update from home.
OTAs can also add more functionality in addition to fixing problems. Rivian added a Camp mode function via an OTA in September, automatically shutting off screens, activating flood lights, and leveling the suspension while camping. Tesla controversially added range to some vehicles when Hurricane Irma forced evacuations in Florida in 2017.
Tesla has been under increased scrutiny from safety regulators due to high-profile crashes and fatalities caused when the company’s Autopilot limited hands-free driving system was in use. In addition to probes by the NHSTA, the U.S. Department of Justice launched a criminal investigation against Tesla over claims that its vehicles could drive themselves.
Separately, the 2020 Model Y compact crossover has been recalled 15 times for a range of issues, including some that can be fixed with an OTA but also much more problematic suspension issues.
The firmware update ensures the taillights operate as designed, Tesla said, and since the affected vehicles were all under warranty, there is no reimbursement plan. Owners can expect notification of the recall by mail as early as Jan. 14, 2023, but it will be old news by then. For more info, owners can try to contact Tesla customer service at 1-877-798-3752 or visit Tesla’s recall portal.