Tesla Boombox, another recall for nearly 600,000 cars

Tesla Boombox, another recall for nearly 600,000 cars

Tesla Boombox

For some years Tesla has integrated into its models an external speaker system called 'Boombox', designed as a Pedestrian Warning System (PWS), and thanks to the dedicated application it is possible to play customized sounds on these speakers, a fairly rare if not unique feature in the automotive landscape; today's news is related to a recall campaign that Tesla had to start following the official request of the NHTSA, the body that deals with highway safety in the United States.

According to what was reported in the official request of the NHTSA, playing custom sounds through the Boombox system may interfere with the actual distress beeps, which is why the system exists. NHTSA has asked Tesla to recall all vehicles involved, which in total should be 594,717 across all Tesla models, Model 3, Model S, Model X and Model Y produced between 2017 (in the case of Model 3) and 2022 , such as the most recent Model Y.

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The strangest aspect of this story is that it is not the first time that Tesla has tried to solve this problem: only a few months ago Tesla had started a similar recall campaign, which involved about 578 thousand vehicles, but which apparently failed to solve the problem in the way required by the US federal body, forcing Elon Musk's House to work on a new update.

Boombox recall redux: Teslas now keep to pedestrian alert rules when summoned

Tesla earlier this week recalled 594,717 vehicles for an issue with its “Boombox” feature that left it potentially noncompliant with federal pedestrian safety requirements. 

The recall—and over-the-air fix—are essentially a “do-over” for Tesla, now making the cars compliant as long as they're moving.

Tesla’s Boombox feature was introduced in December 2020, and it allows drivers to play their choice of sounds outside their vehicle, in place of a normal car horn. 

2022 Tesla lineup (Courtesy of Tesla, Inc.)

2022 Tesla lineup (Courtesy of Tesla, Inc.)

In the issue, which relates to 2020-2022 Tesla Model Y, Model X, and Model S, as well as 2017-2022 Model S vehicles, the Boombox interferes with National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) “quiet car” rules, which apply to electrified vehicles at speeds up to 18.6 mph. 

The rules have led to a number of creative solutions from automakers for hybrids and EVs—with some, including Ford, creating a “designer” sound that’s distinctive to the brand’s vehicles. 

The new recall campaign, posted earlier this week, closely parallels one issued in February—and it rolls out an extended solution. It covers a somewhat higher number of vehicles—likely simply bringing the documents up to date with deliveries.

The firmware fix sent to cars over the air after the last recall didn’t fully remedy the issue, as it allowed the feature to be used in “Park” or during Summon or Smart Summon functions. In the latter scenarios, the vehicles might potentially still not be compliant with the federal rules. 

Tesla Model 3 Enhanced Summon video still [by YouTuber Nagaraj Kelageri]

Tesla Model 3 Enhanced Summon video still [by YouTuber Nagaraj Kelageri]

Tesla clearly states that Smart Summon, in which the car works with the mobile app to be maneuvered out of parking spaces, is to be used only on private property, not on public roads. 

As with a number of recalls issued by Tesla, the announcement is just a formality of what’s already been remedied over-the-air, and no physical fix or service visit is needed. A firmware release sent to cars on March 31 fixed it already.