The NHTSA Is Being Petty With Tesla Again

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Last week, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) showed its distaste for Tesla’s Boombox feature. The agency posted a new Safety Recall Notice for 578,607 Tesla vehicles over the serious problem of which sounds pedestrians hear coming from a Tesla. The NHTSA doesn’t like the idea of cars farting at pedestrians.

Teslarati noted that the recent recall affected 2020–2022 Tesla Model S, 2020–2022 Tesla Model X, 2017–2022 Tesla Model 3, and 2020–2022 Tesla Model Y vehicles. The vehicles are equipped with external speakers that allow them to play a variety of sounds when they are in motion.

According to the NHTSA’s Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard No. 141 (FMVSS 141), manufacturers are prohibited from altering or modifying the sound-emitting capability of a vehicle’s pedestrian warning system.

The document stated:

“The Boombox function allows sounds to be played through an external speaker while the vehicle is in motion, which may obscure the Pedestrian Warning System (PWS) sounds. As such, these vehicles fail to comply with the requirements of Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard number 141, ‘Minimum Sound Requirements for Hybrid and Electric Vehicles.'”

According to the NHTSA, pedestrians could be unaware of an approaching vehicle if the pedestrian warning system sounds were obscured, and this would increase the risk of a crash. So, if a Tesla owner was to have a song or a different type of sound effect enabled, then a pedestrian may not realize that there is a car behind them making the sound. That is the argument.

The remedy that pleased the NHTSA was for Tesla to perform an over-the-air software update that disabled the Boombox feature when the vehicle is in Drive, Neutral, and Reverse modes. Oh, and although it wasn’t mentioned in the letter, the OTA update had to be labeled a “recall.”

I really think the NHTSA is being unnecessarily petty here. If they were truly concerned about safety, they would be concerned about what the term “recall’ will mean in the coming years if they keep on like this.

If there’s a “safety recall” for every single OTA update, people will no longer feel a sense of urgency when they hear news of one, and when the time for a real recall arises, no one will take the NHTSA seriously. I think the NHTSA should refocus on safety instead of being petty with Tesla.

I also noticed Justin Horn’s tweet above. It is a bit worrisome that the NHTSA doesn’t even know the correct model years for a Tesla “recall” they issued. Justin pointed out that the 2017–2019 October 31 Tesla Model 3s do not have external speakers.

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Johnna Crider

Johnna owns less than one share of $TSLA currently and supports Tesla's mission. She also gardens, collects interesting minerals and can be found on TikTok

Johnna Crider has 1996 posts and counting. See all posts by Johnna Crider