'Boombox' function sparks Tesla recall

Pedestrian warning systems in 578,607 cars affected, including model S, X and Y

An external speaker function in 578,607 Teslas will be disabled by the electric vehicle manufacturer this month after the US National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) said it interfered with safety standards.

In late 2020, Tesla firmware enabled the "Boombox" feature, which "allows a customer to play preset or custom sounds through the PWS [pedestrian warning system] external speaker when the vehicle is parked or in motion."

Think of the driver playing whatever they want, drowning out the baseline sort-of-car noise, and you can start to see why regulators were concerned. If you're a loser who doesn't have a Tesla, this informative video gives an idea of how the PWS should sound.

In January 2021, the NHTSA duly began investigating how Boombox might interfere with a safety-critical system designed to alert pedestrians to an oncoming Tesla since they are far quieter than conventional vehicles.

The result of the investigation is a recall [PDF] of certain 2020-22 Model S, Model X, and Model Y vehicles and 2017-22 Model 3 vehicles "built or retrofitted with pedestrian warning system" and capable of operating firmware release 2020.48.25 and later.

As you might imagine, that's a lot of cars. To address the issue, Tesla will stop Boombox working when the car is moving via an over-the-air (OTA) update through February.

The NHTSA document reads:

Tesla will deploy an OTA firmware release to affected vehicles that will disable the Boombox functionality when the vehicle is in Drive, Neutral and Reverse modes. Firmware release 2021.43.101.2, which includes this remedy, was introduced in production on February 3, 2022. Firmware release 2022.8, which also includes this remedy, will deploy OTA to delivered vehicles in February 2022. No further action is necessary from owners whose vehicles are equipped with firmware release 2021.43.101.2 or 2022.8 or a later release. Undelivered vehicles will not be delivered to customers without 2021.43.101.2 or 2022.8 or a later release installed.

Just this month Tesla had to disable a feature in its Full Self-Driving software that allowed some 50,000 vehicles to roll past stop signs at junctions without coming to a full stop.

The company disbanded its media relations unit in 2020. ®

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