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Tesla's ability to update software over the wireless network can create problems with “type approval” rules in Europe and beyond.

Twitter is buzzing with news that the Swedish company Transportstyrelsen, which is equivalent to NHTSA, can issue a stop order for all Tesla vehicles arriving in the Nordic countries. What caused the hype is the message in the famous Swedish Svenska Dagbladet, which says that the regulator does not agree with the practice of updating Tesla over the air. The document quotes the representative of the regulator, Anders Gunneriusson, who said: “We have a standing procedure under article 29 regarding Tesla. This means that we are investigating whether Sweden should ban Tesla from selling cars for six months if there is a serious threat to road safety. ”

This leads to a long-standing contradiction in the open: does the Tesla wireless update (OTA) violate EU rules and, possibly, rules affecting large areas of the world, with the exception of the US?

Before we dive into this, a bit of pre-history in Swedish history: it’s not a new thing, Sweden has been considering this since 2015. In November of the same year, the Swedish regulator wrote a letter to his partner agency in the Netherlands, RDW (or Rijksdienst voor het Wegverkeer), saying that, in his opinion, Tesla’s “Autopilot” should not be approved. A month later, Sweden expressed its concern in a letter to the European Commission, which referred to several inconclusive meetings. Now the Swedish regulator is considering closing the case, but according to the spokesperson, “if an accident occurs in Sweden related to this, we will intervene and open it again.”

This problem is not related to the fact that Tesla autopilot itself faces EU rules on autonomous cars. There are no EU rules governing autonomous cars, except for European law, which, as is well known, requires that the driver "always controls the vehicle." This applies to Tesla's OTA updates and the possibility that they may break the rules. type approval in the EU and many other countries of this world.

Type approval rules are a complex issue. To completely surpass them, you need to be a combination of a lawyer and an engineer. I am neither one nor the other, but I received a suggestion when I communicated with a very large German automaker, and I was given a full education in this subject when I was mad enough to enter the auto parts business for a while.

According to EU legislation, the car must be checked by the authorities before it is allowed to go on the road. Testing each car could crush even a huge bureaucracy in Europe, and therefore the regulator is willing to test only one (or several) cars of the same type, and it issues type approval if the submitting automaker or importer swears that all other cars are types will be exactly the same. After type approval, the approved product cannot be changed. Of course, technical progress is underway, and technical changes are taking place. A type statement allows them, but only if the type statement gets an approved amendment.

What if Tesla (or any other automaker) sends an update overnight, which changes the vehicle’s proven and approved parameters, or adds functionality that didn’t exist when the car received type approval? In accordance with the letter of the law, this update is illegal, unless the type approval is modified. A representative of the Swedish regulator repeated this rule in Svenska Dagbladet.

According to Svenska Dagbladet, car manufacturers, such as BMW and Mercedes, make changes to the software only after receiving approval. “Tesla does not use the same procedure,” the newspaper writes.

The fact that OTA is confronted with the letter of the law is nothing new. This issue has been discussed for years (and so far to no avail) among the stakeholders in the working groups of the United Nations, the EU and elsewhere. Automakers are represented through their global umbrella organization OICA. “Tesla is not a member,” writes a Swedish newspaper. So why have these problems never been broadcast in public? “OEMs do not want to rock the boat and jeopardize their own OTA plans,” the informed contact in the type approval business tells me.

The bottom line is that OTA Tesla works in the gray area, and a rather dark browning can occur if the Swedish substance boils. If the accident prompts the Swedes to determine that Tesla’s OTA is against the law, “the result will be dramatic,” writes Svenska Dagbladet. According to the European Framework Directive 2007/46, type approvals issued by a European Member State are valid throughout Europe. However, Article 29 of this directive states that if there is a serious risk to road safety, any “Member State may, for a maximum of six months, refuse to register such vehicles or authorize the sale or commissioning on its territory”. such vehicles. "

If Sweden did this, it could lead to snowballs in Europe and beyond. In accordance with Article 29, the European Commission must be involved, and the Commission will hold a serious discussion with the agency that issued the type approval, in this case RDW. In theory, this could lead to a loss of type approval throughout the EU. A more likely outcome is that Tesla will be forced to get approval for each OTA update prior to its implementation, which may also include the provision of documents to Tesla EU customers documenting the changes. In many EU countries, especially in Germany, changes or retrofits “that change the functionality of a part of the vehicle” must be made in the vehicle registration documents. If it comes to a boil, it is possible that the OTA night update will require all Tesla customers to visit their automotive department to update their documents (cost from 11 to 31.50 euros.)

This problem may even become a worldwide problem. The European type approval system is based on UN Regulations (UNECE), as well as type approvals in many countries around the world. The rule excluding post-factum changes is one of the basic principles of the UNECE agreement with the easy-to-remember name “United Nations Harmonized Technical Regulations for wheeled vehicles, equipment and parts that can be installed and / or used on wheeled vehicles”. and Conditions for the mutual recognition of approvals issued under this United Nations Regulation. "

If the genie is not kept in a Swedish bottle, OTA can turn into a world nightmare. Tesla is better to pray that their cars do not collide with moose during their stay in Sweden.

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