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Tesla’s recent Model S fires prompt the company to update its battery software

Tesla has announced that it’s updating its battery software following recent fires that wrecked three Model S vehicles located in Shanghai, San Francisco, and Hong Kong, respectively.

The Elon Musk-owned automaker said in a statement that its investigation is continuing, but as a safety precaution, it has started to push out an over-the-air software update for Model S and Model X batteries that will revise their charge and thermal management settings.

Tesla said the update will help “further protect the battery and improve its longevity.” The California-based company added that it has yet to identify an issue with the battery but will be sure to act if one is identified. “The safety of our customers is our top priority,” it said.

The move comes after three Teslas caught fire while parked, all in less than a month. The first incident occurred in April in Shanghai, China, when a Model S suddenly caught fire in a parking garage. Security footage shows smoke billowing from beneath the vehicle before it suddenly explodes. There were no reports of any injuries.

The second fire happened in early May in a private garage located in San Francisco. Again, there were no injuries, but the car was badly damaged. News of a similar incident came on Tuesday, May 14, when Hong Kong media reported that another Model S had caught fire in the parking lot of a shopping mall about half an hour after being parked. The owner said he used Tesla’s Supercharger to zap his car’s battery pack with a 97-percent charge before parking it in the garage. Again, no one was hurt. Tesla is still looking into all three incidents.

In its statement issued on Wednesday, May 15, the electric-car maker said: “As we continue our investigation of the root cause, out of an abundance of caution, we are revising charge and thermal management settings on Model S and Model X vehicles via an over-the-air software update that will begin rolling out today, to help further protect the battery and improve battery longevity.”

The company was keen to point out there are currently more than half a million Tesla cars on the road and that such fires are extremely rare, though it admitted that even one is one too many.

“Although fire incidents involving Tesla vehicles are already extremely rare and our cars are 10 times less likely to experience a fire than a gas car, we believe the right number of incidents to aspire to is zero,” Tesla said in its statement.

There have been at least 14 cases where a Tesla has caught fire, but in most of these, the blazes have been the result of the battery packs suffering damage in a collision. The fact that the two recent Model S fires started when the cars were parked is a troubling development and an issue that Tesla will be keen to properly understand and resolve as soon as possible. The software update is certainly a first step.

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Trevor Mogg
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