WASHINGTON (Reuters) -Electric car maker Tesla Inc is recalling 578,607 vehicles in the United States because pedestrians may not be able to hear a required warning sound of an approaching car due to loud music or other sounds played by its "Boombox" feature, a U.S. regulator said on Thursday.
Tesla has issued 10 U.S. recalls over the last four months, including four in the last two weeks. The Texas-based company has come under increasing scrutiny from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). Tesla said it was not aware of any crashes, injuries or fatalities related to the vehicle alert issue that spurred the latest recall.
Tesla is recalling some 2020-2022 Model S, Model X, Model Y, and 2017-2022 Model 3 vehicles because the "Boombox function" allows sounds to be played through an external speaker while the vehicle is in motion and that may obscure the required Pedestrian Warning System sound.
NHTSA said they fail to comply with a federal motor vehicle safety standard on minimum sound requirements for electric vehicles.
Tesla will perform an over-the-air software update that will disable the Boombox functionality when the vehicle is in Drive, Neutral and Reverse modes. Many of Tesla's recent recalls have been to address software issues.
Several of Tesla's recent recalls have come soon after NHTSA raised questions about features or complaints. The regulator is investigating Tesla's driver assistance system Autopilot and an in-vehicle game feature.
Under pressure from NHTSA, Tesla in January 2021 agreed to recall 135,000 vehicles with touchscreen displays that could fail. In that case, NHTSA took the unusual step of formally seeking the recall.
Tesla had sought to resolve that issue with an over the air update but NHTSA said in early 2021 the updates could be "procedurally and substantively insufficient."
In the most recent recall, Tesla introduced "Boombox" in December 2020, and NHTSA issued an information request in January 2021, the automaker said. There were several virtual meetings on the issue over subsequent months.
In September, NHTSA upgraded an investigation into the issue, Tesla said. In October Tesla defended tests and rationale used to determine Boombox’s compliance but ultimately Tesla agreed to a recall after two days of meetings last month.
Boombox uses the Pedestrian Warning System (PWS) speaker and users can customize sounds.
Electric vehicles are often harder to hear at lower speeds than gasoline-powered engines. Under rules mandated by Congress, automakers must add sounds to electric vehicles when they are moving at speeds of up to 18.6 miles per hour (30 km per hour) to help prevent injuries among pedestrians, cyclists and the blind.
NHTSA has said that at higher speeds, tire noise, wind resistance, and other factors eliminate the need for alert sounds.
(Reporting by David Shepardson; editing by Jason Neely, Chizu Nomiyama and David Gregorio)