Model 3 OTA Software Update Left Out Autopilot and Automatic Emergency Braking (AEB)

Owners of Tesla’s hugely popular Model 3 were surprised to find that a recent over-the-air (OTA) software update for their cars missed two critical items – Autopilot and Automatic Emergency Braking (AEB). Both these ADAS (Advanced Driver Assistance System) components are critical to passenger safety, and Model 3 owners who received and installed the update were left for more than a day without these features.

This might be a once-off thing for a technology-based company like Tesla, but its implications are far more serious than if they happen in other industries like smartphones or smart home appliances. It’s not like a smartphone where a missed update feature is little more than an inconvenience. A car’s safety features being disabled for a day could be a question of life and death.

Tesla moved quickly after reports from Tesla Motors Forum members started coming out, and on Thursday another update rolled out that took care of the problem. According to Consumer Reports, Tesla hasn’t commented on the alleged oversight.

Even though Tesla was able to resolve the issue in a little over a day, the fact that it involved key safety features implies that there are no checks to ensure that all critical systems are restored during a software update. Even a manual checklist could have avoided such a situation.

Software updates could become a standard practice in the auto industry of tomorrow. Right now Tesla is sort of a trailblazer in this area, controlling all sorts of aspects of their EV fleet using software. However, this could become the norm once other carmakers come on board. But it also means some global standards need to be set for rolling out updates to cars.

Tesla has always been a proactive company, and we’re betting that Tesla’s software division is already on the ball trying to create a fail-safe process for future software updates. This is hopefully the last time we’ll see them drop the ball like this.