The label ‘full self-driving’ car is misleading. It’s dangerous.

On Feb. 15, Tesla recalled almost 363,000 of its vehicles – certain versions of the Model 3, Model S, Model X and Model Y. What the vehicles had in common was what Tesla calls its “Full Self-Driving” system.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) told Tesla that it was concerned the vehicles with this feature could:

  • Go straight through an intersection from a turn-only lane
  • Fail to stop completely at stop signs
  • Go through yellow lights without proper caution
  • Fail to respond to changes in the posted speed limits
  • Fail to account for a driver’s adjustments in speed

The agency also said that the Full Self-Driving (FSD) beta software allows vehicles to exceed the speed limit and “travel through intersections in an unlawful or unpredictable manner,” increasing the risk of a crash.

Tesla disagrees with NHTSA’s analysis, but it complied with the request for a recall and software update.

If you drive one of these models with the FSD software installed or pending, your vehicle is probably in the recall.

You can check by visiting NHTSA’s recall search page and entering your car’s Vehicle Identification Number (VIN). The VIN can be found on your title or in various places on your car, including at the base of the windshield and on the inside of the driver’s door.

Safety groups point out that an alert driver could avoid these problems

In a joint media statement, the safety rating organizations Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) and Highway Loss Data Institute (HLDI) said that “Full Self-Driving” and Tesla’s other system, “Autopilot” are misleading names.

That’s because there is currently no car that can be safely left to operate without an attentive driver behind the wheel.

Tesla’s website even says this, according to the Associated Press. It states that these vehicles can’t drive themselves. The driver must be ready to intervene at any moment.

“Fully attentive drivers could prevent their vehicles from doing the things cited in the recall,” the statement pointed out. But the groups’ research shows that many drivers of cars with partial automation nevertheless treat their vehicles as fully automated.

The problem with this recall is not limited to Tesla, the statement makes clear. Other automakers are also producing partially automated vehicles, and drivers may be relying on the vehicles to fully drive without human intervention.

Under the law of product liability, companies can sometimes be held responsible for accidents when people misuse their products in predictable ways. The misleading names could also create liability for Tesla or other automakers with similar issues.

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