Tesla Model Y electric crossovers equipped with the optional tow package are being recalled for inoperative trailer-brake lights, but Tesla claims to have already remedied the issue through an over-the-air (OTA) software update.
In the 2,567 affected vehicles, a software error could prevent illumination of trailer-brake lights, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) recall notice. That represents a failure to comply with Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard (FMVSS) number 108, the agency noted.
Tesla will notify owners of the issue, but has already released a firmware update OTA as of September 23, 2020, to address the problem, according to the recall notice.
In other words, this required the issue of a recall for being out of compliance with a federal regulation, but it’s already been fixed—without a trip to the dealership or store, and likely in very close to 100% of vehicles.
The ability to fix certain problems via OTA software updates has been a Tesla strength for years. And it has applied significant safety upgrades at several other points to its vehicles.
2020 Tesla Model Y
In 2018, for example, Tesla released a software update for the Model 3 to improve braking performance after poor results in a Consumer Reports test.
Tesla has offered OTA update capability since the launch of the Model S in 2012, but other automakers are only now catching up.
The Jaguar I-Pace electric crossover got OTA capability after its launch, and has received at least one update based on lessons learned from racing.
When it launches, the Ford Mustang Mach-E will get OTA capability from the start, and that will also be the case with most of the automaker's other models going forward.
OTA can be a double-edged sword, however. While Tesla uses it to add new features and correct faults, it also exerts an unprecedented amount of control on its cars, allowing it to potentially delete or disable features as well. Let's hope that doesn't become the norm as other automakers adopt OTA capability.