Tesla recently regained some points from Consumer Reports for finally updating its Automatic Emergency Braking system to react at highway speeds, but now, due to the necessity to examine real-world data, the automaker has turned the system off in some new Model S, X, and 3 vehicles.
A Tesla spokesperson told Consumer Reports that the automaker must ensure that the system is working properly in real-world situations since some hardware updates have been installed. Tesla has promised the impacted owners that the system will be back on and fully functional inside of six weeks. However, the automaker did sell these vehicles with information stating that the AEB was standard equipment. The company said in August:
Tesla Autopilot 2.0 is still undergoing incremental updates/tweaks and software validation to reach parity with the first-generation (Mobileye) system.
“This hardware set has some added computing and wiring redundancy, which very slightly improves reliability.”
A spokesperson from the automaker elaborated this week:
"We recently introduced some minor hardware changes to the Autopilot system in new cars, and we are now in the process of robustly validating the new hardware using real-world driving data. During that process, Automatic Emergency Braking will temporarily be inactive and will instead be in shadow mode, which means it will register how the feature would perform if it were activated, without taking any action. This temporary calibration period is standard Tesla protocol and is done out of an abundance of caution.”
This is an effort by the automaker to assure that all vehicles are safe. Since Model 3 production began in July, apparently Tesla has produced some vehicles that have a different, new hardware configuration. While the system seems to work for those using the vehicles, Tesla needs to be positive that the software and hardware are married and calibrated correctly, so as to function at 100 percent.
While the shut down is an inconvenience, it should only affect a very small number vehicles. Being that Tesla relies on over-the-air (OTA) updates, this type of situation is something that Tesla owners will likely have to expect and accept. Additionally, the automaker doesn't rely on model years, so when newer, better hardware/parts come along, Tesla may simply add them to the vehicles that are currently being manufactured. Though the owners have to wait for the updates and the validation, in a traditional situation, this may amount to a recall. OEM owners may then have to take their car in for service.
Neither of these situations is positive for the consumer, and hopefully, once the electric automaker achieves full parity with its second-generation Autopilot system, this type of occurrence will become increasingly rare. Though it's not likely that it will ever go away completely. It comes with the territory of investing in a whole new technology. Our cell phones, laptops, and tablets need to go through updates on a regular basis, and during an update, the technology is rendered unusable. Of course, this often happens at the most inopportune and frustrating times. With technology comes convenience, but at the expense of situations such as these.
Consumer Reports director of automotive testing, Jake Fisher, mentioned the automaker's unique system:
"Tesla can deliver cars prior to fully developing the software needed for new features, with plans to update the cars later."
CR also pointed out the amazing potential of the OTA technology with a reference to Hurricane Irma:
"Tesla this week provided owners living in the path of Hurricane Irma whose vehicles have a 60kWh battery a temporary, free over-the-air upgrade to give those vehicles more range in case owners wanted to evacuate. That was possible because Tesla models sold as 60 kWh actually have the capability to be 75 kWh vehicles; normally, the owner would have to pay to expand that battery pack."
However, Fisher did admit:
“The downside for Tesla owners comes when promised features are delayed. Owners who paid for those missing features have little to no recourse."
Source: Consumer Reports