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Tesla hits mute on “Boombox” feature, was drowning out federally mandated pedestrian warning sounds

Tesla has issued a recall to partly deactivate its Boombox feature originally added in late 2020, because it interferes with federally mandated pedestrian warning sounds.

Released in December 2020 as part of a software update, Boombox mode allows drivers to play sounds outside their cars. Instead of a normal car horn, it includes options like a goat bleating, ice cream truck music, applause, and fart sounds.

However, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) found that this could make cars noncompliant with federal “quiet car” rules that require EVs and hybrids to play pedestrian warning sounds at low speeds.

2021 Tesla Model S Plaid

2021 Tesla Model S Plaid

The Boombox and pedestrian warning sounds are separate, but because both play through external speakers, the Boombox sounds could drown out the pedestrian alerts, according to the NHTSA recall report.

The recall affects 578,607 cars that received Tesla firmware update 2020.48.25, the report said. That includes 2020-2022 Model S, Model X, and Model Y EVs, as well as 2017-2022 Model 3 sedans.

Tesla will issue an over-the-air software update to disable Boombox mode while vehicles are in drive, neutral, or reverse. The automaker has used its over-the-air update to quickly address recalls, including a recent one to correct a heat-pump issue.

2022 Tesla Model 3

2022 Tesla Model 3

A similar Tesla feature that doesn’t get in the way of federal rules is its allowance to play audio as part of Sentry mode. That’s likely because cars are stationary in Sentry mode, which may also be why the recall report didn’t make any reference to a need to disable  Boombox mode while cars are in park.

The federal quiet car rules require electrified vehicles to emit noises at speeds up to 18.6 mph. Lack of exhaust noise makes these cars harder to hear at low speeds, but tire noise, wind buffeting, and other sounds pick up beyond that, regulators have said. The rules have taken over a decade to enact, having first been proposed in 2010.

A number of automakers have worked within the framework to craft some sounds with quite a backstory, from sci-fi to nature-influenced. Ford, for example, created a “unique designer sound” for its hybrids and EVs.


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