Tesla Model Y recall can’t be handled by software

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Tesla is recalling thousands of Model Y vehicles—and this time, the word “recall” is indisputably appropriate.

With other recent recalls, CEO Elon Musk has expressed frustration with the word “recall” itself, since Tesla could—unlike some rivals—simply fix the problems via an over-the-air software update. Traditionally the word “recall” conveys bringing one’s car to a mechanic for work.

For instance, last month, under pressure from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, Tesla “recalled” more than 360,000 vehicles equipped with its Full Self-Driving (FSD) beta software because of apparent crash risks. 

But with the fix requiring merely software update, Musk agreed with a Twitter user who wrote: “Seems like there should be terminology introduced to differentiate between recalls and software updates. Because you know, one requires something to be recalled and the other doesn’t.”

Musk replied: “Definitely. The word ‘recall’ for an over-the-air software update is anachronistic and just flat wrong.”

He made a similar statement in September last year, tweeting: “The terminology is outdated & inaccurate.” That was after a “recall” of 1.1 million Tesla vehicles to ensure they fully complied with the NHTSA’s safety requirements regarding power windows. “This is a tiny over-the-air software update,” Musk added.

From the beginning, Tesla designed its vehicles with the advantage of over-the-air fixes and updates in mind.

Last year, the consulting firm Deloitte published a study on software-defined vehicles, calling Tesla “the quintessential leader” of the trend. “The software-defined vehicle’s transformation will be an inexorable trend driving the development of the automotive industry over the next five to 10 years,” it added. 

But this time around, actual bolts might be rattling around, and for safety reasons they need to be secured—physically. As a recall report by the NHTSA submitted in late February explained, in 3,470 Model Y cars (2022-2023), “one or more of the bolts that secure the seat back frames to the lower seat frame may not have been torqued to specifications.”

The means “the seat belt system may not perform as designed in a collision, which may increase the risk of an injury for occupants seated in affected second-row seating positions,” it noted.

It added, “As of February 23, 2023, Tesla has identified 5 warranty claims, received between December 9, 2022, and February 14, 2023, that may be related to the conditions described above. Tesla is not aware of any injuries or deaths that may be related to such conditions.”  

Fortune reached out to Tesla but did not receive an immediate reply.

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