Elon Musk apparently isn't pleased with the pressure the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration exerted on Tesla Inc. to conduct its 11th recall of US vehicles in just over three months.
Asked by a Twitter follower on Saturday what the rationale was for recalling a feature called Boombox, which enabled people to play sounds through an external speaker of their vehicle, Tesla's chief executive officer replied: "The fun police made us do it (sigh)."
Tesla told NHTSA on February 4 that it would disable Boombox when its vehicles are in drive, neutral or reverse, to comply with a safety standard requiring electric cars to emit sounds that alert pedestrians. In its recall report, the company said NHTSA asked for information in January 2021 to investigate whether the feature complied with the safety standard. Tesla decided to conduct a voluntary recall after months of back-and-forth with the agency, according to the report.
Musk has repeatedly clashed with US regulators, directing much of his ire in recent years at the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. He has said he does not respect the SEC and has come up with derisive and profane plays on the agency's initials since it charged him with securities fraud over his August 2018 claims to have secured funding to take Tesla private.
In April 2018, Musk hung up on the chairman of the National Transportation Safety Board over a dispute related to a fatal crash involving a Tesla operating on Autopilot.
NHTSA opened a defect investigation into Autopilot in August, saying it would assess the technologies and methods Tesla uses to monitor and assist drivers and enforce their engagement with the system. The probe was precipitated by roughly a dozen incidents in which Teslas operating on Autopilot collided with vehicles at crash scenes, including first responders.
Weeks after NHTSA opened the investigation, Tesla deployed an over-the-air update to its cars aimed at improving their detection of emergency vehicles and neglected to file a recall notice. NHTSA asked the company whether it intended to file a safety recall, and if not, to provide technical and legal justification.
At the same time, NHTSA scrutinized Tesla's plans to expand the availability of Full Self-Driving, or FSD, the controversially named suite of features that still requires a fully attentive driver with hands on the wheel. Two of the 11 recalls Tesla has filed since October were related to FSD.
NHTSA's actions suggest regulatory pressure is rising on technology that Musk has said played a critical role in making Tesla the world's most valuable automaker. The CEO tweeted in September that investors were giving the company "significant credit" for its self-driving capabilities.