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The Tesla Recall Is a Win for Tesla

And a loss for safety advocates.

A Tesla dealership.
Heatmap Illustration/Getty Images

More than 2 million Tesla vehicles are set to receive over-the-air updates to address failures in the Autopilot system, the carmaker’s much-hyped and oft-abused driver-assistance program. But the recall report published by the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration shows regulators are willing to keep risky technology on the road as long as the driver gets nagged enough.

What’s at issue with the recall is less Autopilot’s ability to brake and accelerate and more its Autosteer functionality, which allows the car to follow curves and make turns. According to NHTSA, “the prominence and scope of the feature’s controls may not be sufficient to prevent driver misuse.”

That “misuse” has been well documented in the years since Autopilot’s release. It began with Teslas being “hacked” with a water bottle to allow drivers to keep their hands completely off the wheel (and sometimes their bodies in the back seat); after that, researchers found that Autopiloted Teslas were involved in 273 crashes over a one-year period. Autopilot has been investigated in almost a dozen cases of vehicles crashing into emergency vehicles, and just this August, thousands of Autopilot complaints from German customers were leaked to Handelsblatt, a German business newspaper.

The initial NHTSA investigation began in 2021, and late this year U.S. regulators met with Tesla twice to address fixes. The automaker eventually decided to resolve the matter by voluntarily administering the recall — while, according to NHTSA, “not concurring with the agency’s analysis.”

While a 2 million-car recall isn’t something usually construed as a win, in this case, U.S. regulators did not conclude the technology itself was unsafe, and also determined that drivers are responsible for using Autopilot safely. This is what Tesla has contended since the beginning, and it’s a rebuke to safety advocates, many local legislators, and lawyers representing accident victims and their families.

Both Tesla and NHTSA point out that Autopilot is similar to other Level 2 automated driving systems offered by competing automakers — although these competitors have more cautiously waded into autonomy, building in myriad restrictions and ways to track driver focus. That’s in contrast to Tesla, which, despite ample contravening evidence and multiple lawsuits, still hosts a video of a Model X “self-driving” with no intervention from the passenger on its website.

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Damon Lavrinc

Damon Lavrinc is a freelance writer and industrial design student focused on the future of transportation. A former driving instructor and communications professional, Damon is the co-founder of the Autonocast and led transportation technology coverage at WIRED, Jalopnik, and other outlets. Read More

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Sparks

This Chicken Named Potato Will Teach Your Kids About Climate Change

A chicken from the future, to be clear.

Future Chicken.
Heatmap Illustration/CBC, Getty Images

If I told you there was a chicken named Potato who was going to teach our kids about climate change, would you think I was kidding? Either way, I’m here to inform you that Future Chicken, an “ECOtainment platform” co-created by Catherine Winder and Annabel Slaight, launched last year, including original content like a TV show that airs on CBC and YouTube, games, and a podcast, all aimed at warding off climate doom and instead highlighting climate solutions.

Winder and Slaight have, to put it mildly, impressive resumes, with Slaight having been an executive producer of The Big Comfy Couch and Winder a force behind multiple Angry Birds movies. The show’s premise is fun, and was actually thought up by kids. The main character is a chicken (named Potato) from the year 2050, a time when climate change has seemingly been solved. She travels back and forth between the future and the present, sometimes talking about the solutions of her time.

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Sparks

Uncle Sam Is Helping Americans Buy 675 Electric Cars a Day

New Treasury data just dropped.

An EV charger.
Heatmap Illustration/Getty Images

Earlier this week, I was thinking to myself, how are we going to know how many people are actually taking advantage of the tax credits in the Inflation Reduction Act?

When I put the question out on Twitter — I mean, X — I heard from Sam Hughes, a researcher inside the Treasury who pointed me to a section of the department’s website that contains data on tax credits by year. The problem is, it hasn’t been updated since 2020. But then today, as if to answer my prayers, I received a taste of the data I was looking for in my inbox.

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Sparks

Get a Grip, New York. It’s Just Snow.

We have forgotten how to winter.

New York City during a snowstorm.
Heatmap Illustration/Library of Congress

It is a time-honored tradition for Americans who live north of the 39th parallel to mock cities like Washington, D.C., and Atlanta when they shut down over a little bit of snow. It is with great regret, then, that I write now to tell you that New York City has fallen. No longer will it be acceptable for us to roll our eyes at Southerners who abandon their cars over a mere inch of snow; no, we in fact deserve to be razzed by New Englanders and Minnesotans, our former partners in razzing. New Yorkers have become, in effect, weak. We’ve forgotten how to winter.

Maybe it’s because it has been 745 days since our last significant snowfall, or maybe it’s because, at some point, we started to lean into our designation as a “subtropical” climate. But no — I won’t make excuses, either. Outside my window in western Queens, the sidewalks are slushy but navigable, the flakes are light, and the city has lost its mind.

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