Electric and self-driving car manufacturer Tesla is having a hard time going more than a month without issuing recalls. In April, the manufacturer expanded on a February recall for an unsafe “Boombox” feature included in more than 600,000 vehicles.
This recall, combined with several other recent issues with the company’s vehicles, might be a sign that Tesla doesn’t prioritize safety. If you own a Tesla, you need to understand what the manufacturer’s attitude and consistent safety violations may mean for you. Keep reading to learn why the Boombox recall is taking place, the risks the feature poses, and what Tesla owners should know about their cars’ safety.
Why the Boombox Recall Is Being Expanded
The original February recall was based on a feature in many Tesla models known as “Boombox.” This function used the vehicles’ external speakers to play sounds and music. It operated regardless of whether the car was in motion.
However, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) was concerned about the feature. According to federal regulations, all vehicles, including electric cars, need to make noise to alert pedestrians that a car is approaching. Manufacturers are not allowed to modify or mute these sounds because of the risk modifications pose to other road users.
The NHTSA’s concern was that playing sounds through Boombox would obscure pedestrian alert noises since they were played over the same external speakers. Tesla denied to the NHTSA that the Boombox feature violated these regulations for more than a year. However, at the beginning of 2022, the company chose to recall 85,000 vehicles with the function.
The original recall blocked the use of Boombox while cars were in drive, neutral, or reverse. The company has since determined that this may not be enough to guarantee safety. Teslas can also operate in “Summon” or “Smart Summon” modes, in which the vehicles self-operate to reach the driver.
The current recall, which covers an additional 515,000 vehicles manufactured between 2017 and 2022, will also block Boombox functions from operating while in Summon and Smart Summon mode. This ensures that if a car is turned on and ready to drive, it will not produce sound through Boombox that could obscure warning noises.
Risks of Boombox Feature
Regulations regarding pedestrian alert sounds are in place for good reason. Electric cars are significantly quieter than gas-powered alternatives. In fact, they’re so quiet that they may not be audible over other ambient sounds, especially at low speeds. This can cause pedestrians and other drivers to fail to notice an electric car driving toward them, potentially leading to fatal accidents. The NHTSA specifically names hard-of-hearing and visually impaired people as groups at risk from overly-quiet cars.
That’s why the NHTSA has required electric cars moving at 19 mph or less to produce warning sounds to prevent these accidents from happening. The agency states that electric vehicles don’t have to actively produce sounds at higher speeds because other things like the noise of tires on the road alert pedestrians instead. However, Boombox caused problems by obscuring all sounds made by the cars. The driver’s chosen sounds could block the car’s normal pedestrian alert sounds and put people at risk of walking in front of a moving vehicle.
Boombox Recall Continues Tesla’s Trend of Unsafe Features
Unfortunately for Tesla owners, this recall is just the latest in a long line of recalls for fundamental safety issues. Compared to other car manufacturers, Tesla vehicles face frequent safety recalls, especially considering how short a time the company has been in operation.
Other recent safety problems with Tesla cars include:
- A recall to prevent vehicles from falsely detecting forward collisions and applying emergency brakes
- A recall to prevent the center console from displaying games while moving
- A recall to prevent self-driving cars from breaking the law by rolling through stop signs
- Multiple basic safety and functionality recalls for issues like airbag failures, seatbelt notification errors, and suspension faults
Tesla owner Elon Musk doesn’t seem particularly bothered by the idea that the Boombox function put people in danger, either. On Twitter, Musk blamed the “fun police” for making the company remove the feature. This may be a sign that Musk prioritizes the aesthetics of Tesla vehicles over functionality or safety.
When Teslas Cross the Line Into Lemons
With all of these problems, you may wonder whether your car is worth the investment. If you bought a Tesla in California and it suffers from manufacturer defects, you might be able to take legal action. Under the state’s lemon laws, you have the right to request that your car’s manufacturer replace or refund the vehicle if it meets certain conditions.
Cars are considered lemons under California law if:
- They are under warranty
- The manufacturer caused them to have a defect that affects their safety, performance, or resale value
- The defect was first noticed within 18 months or 18,000 miles after the initial purchase
- The manufacturer was unable to repair the defect after being granted a reasonable opportunity to do so
This means that many Teslas purchased in California may be eligible for lemon claims. Suppose your Tesla’s suspension started to fail in the first year you bought it, and it’s still under warranty. In that case, if Tesla hasn’t managed to repair it after multiple attempts, you can file a lemon claim and have the company either replace your faulty car or refund you the purchase price.
Holding Tesla Accountable for Unsafe Cars
If you own a Tesla, your vehicle could pose a significant risk to your safety and to other drivers and pedestrians. If you think your car might cross the line into lemon territory, you may be able to get it refunded or replaced.
Schedule your consultation with the lemon law experts at Johnson & Buxton to find out more. You can learn whether your car is eligible under California lemon laws, how to file a claim, and what you need to do to protect yourself. Stop wasting time and start the process of fighting for a safer car today.