Tesla’s Model S Safety Solution: Software – 12/5/13

Most automakers typically respond to an investigation by government safety regulators by providing documents, and by approaching federal officials with a certain deference. Tesla, of course, is not a typical automaker.

The electric vehicle (EV) company and its CEO Elon Musk met news of a recent National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA)investigation into fires involving the Tesla Model Swith a mix of bluster, statistics, and a software upgrade. While these tactics are unorthodox in the staid automotive world, they’re in character for Tesla and particularly for Musk.

In a subsequent back and forth between Tesla and NHTSA, the media mainly focused on the Musk’s role as a maverick raconteur. But little attention has been paid to an important subplot to the melodrama: the way Tesla has ostensibly addressed the issue through an over-the-air (OTA) software update rather than the more common swapping of physical car parts—and how this signals a big shift in the automotive industry.

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