Tesla is recalling 54,000 cars equipped with its Full Self-Driving software to disable a feature that in certain conditions lets the vehicles roll slowly through intersections without stopping.
The move comes after the automaker was criticized on social media for enabling “rolling stops” in violation of traffic regulations.
“Failing to stop at a stop sign can increase the risk of a crash,” the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said in a letter to Tesla confirming the recall, which was made public on Tuesday.
The action covers only Teslas that have been equipped with software that the company calls Full Self-Driving and includes S, X, 3 and Y models that were produced at various times between 2016 and 2022.
Full Self-Driving is more advanced than Tesla’s more widely used Autopilot driver assistance system. Despite their names, neither system can operate a car without active engagement by a human driver.
Although Tesla allows customers to buy Full Self-Driving software — it costs $12,000 — the software is still in a test phase, and the company has allowed only a select group of customers to activate it.
The rolling-stop problem is the latest in a series of safety issues involving Tesla. In August, the traffic safety agency opened a formal investigation into a series of crashes in which Teslas in Autopilot mode struck emergency vehicles that had stopped or parked, often at the scene of an earlier accident. The agency is trying to find out why Autopilot sometimes failed to see and stop for police cars or fire trucks with emergency lights flashing.
A month later, Tesla issued an over-the-air update to improve the ability to recognize emergency vehicles. The safety agency responded by reminding Tesla that federal law requires the company to initiate a recall any time it corrects a safety defect. The agency also ordered Tesla to provide data about its Full Self-Driving software and raised concerns that Tesla might be preventing customers from sharing safety information with the agency.
In November, Tesla modified the software on about 12,000 cars to fix a braking problem and filed a formal recall to document the move. The automaker also recalled 458,000 cars in December for two separate mechanical defects that could affect safety.
Also in December, the safety agency opened an investigation into a feature that allowed front passengers or drivers to play video games on the dashboard screen while Tesla cars were moving. A day later, Tesla agreed to disable the feature.
The rolling-stop issue came to light after a Tesla software update in October added driving modes that could allow cars equipped with the system to roll through intersections at speeds of five miles per hour or less. The safety agency discussed the matter with Tesla twice in early January, and the company agreed to issue a recall and disable rolling stops on Jan. 20, according to documents posted on the agency’s website.
Tesla told the regulator that rolling stops were allowed only at intersections when no cars, pedestrians or bicyclists were detected. The company told the safety agency that it was not aware of any crashes that resulted from rolling stops by cars equipped with the Full Self-Driving software, the documents show.
The company did not respond to a request for comment.