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Tesla recalls more than 817,000 vehicles for faulty seat-belt chime

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Tesla is recalling more than 817,000 vehicles in the U.S. because the seat belt reminder chimes may not sound when the vehicles are started and the driver hasn't buckled up.

The recall covers the 2021 and 2022 Model S sedan and Model X SUV, as well as the 2017 through 2022 Model 3 sedan and 2020 through 2022 Model Y SUV, according to documents posted Thursday by safety regulators. Federal motor vehicle safety laws require the chimes to sound when vehicles are started, and the sound stops when front belts are buckled.

The recall documents posted by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration say the problem happens only if the driver left the vehicle in the previous drive cycle while the chime was sounding.

Tesla will fix the problem by sending out an over-the-air software update early this month. The safety agency says without the chime, a driver may not know their seat belt is unbuckled, increasing the risk of injury during a crash.

The company says in the documents that it's not aware of any crashes or injuries due to the problem. A visual seat belt reminder is still displayed.

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The problem was discovered by South Korea's Automobile Testing and Research Institute on January 6. Tesla investigated and determined that a recall was needed on January 25, the documents say.

The chime still sounds if the vehicles go over 22 kilometers per hour (13.7 miles per hour) and the driver's belt isn't buckled.

The recall is among the largest in the Austin, Texas, company's history and covers all four models in its lineup. Estimates by show Tesla has sold just over 1 million vehicles in the U.S. since 2013.

The recall comes as the company faces increasing scrutiny from NHTSA, the nation's road safety agency.

Second recall this year 

Earlier this week the agency announced that Tesla would recall nearly 54,000 cars and SUVs because their "Full Self-Driving" software lets them roll through stop signs without coming to a complete halt. The "rolling stop" feature allows vehicles to go through intersections with all-way stop signs at up to 5.6 miles per hour. 

Recall documents posted Tuesday say the company will disable the "rolling stop" feature with a software update. The recall covers Model S sedans and X SUVs from 2016 through 2022, as well as 2017 to 2022 Model 3 sedans and 2020 through 2022 Model Y SUVs.

Tesla's "Full Self-Driving" software is being tested by selected owners on public roads. It cannot drive itself, and the company warns that drivers must be ready to intervene at any time.

Safety advocates complain that Tesla should not be allowed to test the vehicles in traffic with untrained drivers, and that the Tesla software can malfunction, exposing other motorists and pedestrians to danger. Most of the other auto companies with similar software test with trained human safety drivers.

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NHTSA also is looking into a driver's complaint that "Full Self-Driving" software caused a crash in California as well as why Tesla vehicles using the company's less-sophisticated "Autopilot" driver-assist system have repeatedly crashed into emergency vehicles parked on roadways.

In August, the agency said it had identified 11 crashes since 2018 in which Teslas on Autopilot or Traffic Aware Cruise Control have hit emergency vehicles. In those incidents, 17 people were injured and one was killed. Tesla in December agreed to update its driver-assist system.

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