As Technology Changes, NHTSA Could Alter Auto Recall Process

Posted on Feb 03, 2017

The days of waiting for mailed auto recall notices for your vehicle could be a thing of the past as vehicle technology evolves. With more technological options available, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) is evaluating the way it conducts recalls.

Why does the NHTSA need to change its recall process?

Last year, Tesla's semiautonomous Autopilot feature allowed the death of a driver, prompting an investigation by the NHTSA. By the time the agency completed the investigation, Tesla employed a fix to its programming to prevent similar accidents.

Unlike defective vehicles of the past, the repair for the defect did not require a recall notice. This is because Tesla remotely updated the Autopilot software with an over-the-air software update. As more automakers work on self-driving technology, the NHTSA believes it must make changes to its recall parameters.

A representative for NHTSA confirmed the agency is looking into modifying its recall requirements when an automaker can correct a defect through a remote repair. For now, all issues, including software defects, will be subject to the same recall processes as physical defects.

Will auto recall notices stop completely?

Even when the majority of vehicles are software-controlled, it is unlikely that the NHTSA will stop sending recall notices. Many car defects are still mechanical or physical defects that require repair at a mechanic. Automakers will still have to send notices for these types of defects, but there might be additional methods of notification.

As our society moves to a digital age of communication, mailed correspondence is easily lost or ignored. To combat this, the NHTSA and Department of Transportation (DOT) proposed a new rule in September 2016 that allows the NHTSA to notify car owners of recalls using methods such as:

  • Email
  • Text message
  • Infotainment centers

This would not stop the distribution of recall notices by mail, but serve as an additional method of notification. The goal with the change is to create a higher rate of notification to owners and raise the repair rate of these recalls.

Are automakers liable for damages caused by defective vehicles?

In most cases, if a defect causes a crash and injury of a person or persons, the automaker is liable for those damages. However, if the investigation finds the driver's actions caused the accident and the defect had no effect on the outcome, it can be difficult to obtain a settlement.

The NHTSA identifies some defective vehicles as such once one or more accidents have occurred due to the defect. If you are in a car accident and the investigation finds a defective vehicle caused the accident, you are entitled to compensation from the liable auto manufacturer.

For more information on how to check your car for recalls, click here. For legal help with defective auto claims, contact a car accident attorney the Law Office of Jason R. Schultz, P.C. to schedule a no-cost consultation on your case: 404-474-0804.