Tesla fixes 37% of its recalls via software updates, leading auto industry

Public data by National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) shows that Tesla, unlike traditional automakers, handles many of their recalls by sending out over-the-air (OTA) software updates.

Tesla’s software advantage ensures quick and cheap fixes compared to traditional automakers and almost perfect compliance rates.

Data compiled by Reuters shows that nearly all recalls issued by NHTSA since 2020 needed physical repairs, but 7 of 19 Tesla’s recalls (37%) were fixed through fast and easy OTA software updates.

Remote updates are a lot cheaper and can ensure that all vehicles receive them. Recalls from traditional automakers usually require a trip to the dealership and the compliance rates vary from 70% for newer cars to just 50% for older models.

Tesla recalls remote updates (Source: Reuters)
Tesla handles majority of industry remote software recalls (Source: Reuters)

A shift to software updates in the auto industry is a big challenge for regulators like NHTSA. Don Slavik, who has served as a consultant in several technology lawsuits against Tesla, says that he has not seen any evidence that NHTSA has staff with expertise and experience to deal with software issues.

This competitive advantage was illustrated earlier this month when NHTSA ordered Tesla to issue a recall to prevent some of its cars from making “rolling stops” instead of coming to a complete stop at some intersections.

This feature violated state laws and was deemed a safety risk, according to NHTSA.

Tesla issued a OTA software update to disable the feature and make cars stop completely, making all cars recall compliant with the touch of a button.

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