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Feeling the Burn: Tesla Issues Software Update Following Rash of Fires

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tesla model-s-rear, image: Tesla Motors

The spontaneous combustion of several Tesla vehicles in recent weeks has forced the automaker into action, issuing over-the-air updates in an attempt to snuff out the problem… and smother another round of bad PR. To its credit, Tesla seems to be taking the matter seriously.

The update covers the company’s Model S and X vehicles, regardless of country. Meanwhile, investigations continue into the cause of recent blazes in Shanghai, San Francisco, and Hong Kong.

In a statement reported by the BBC, Tesla said it issued the update “out of an abundance of caution.”

“As we continue our investigation of the root cause… 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.”

While the company said it doesn’t know the exact cause of the fires, “thermal runaway” is a known danger with lithium-ion batteries. The unstoppable chain reaction, in which temperatures soar within a fraction of a second, has even brought down airliners.

In late April, security camera footage showed a parked Model S smoking, then exploding, in a Shanghai parking garage, incinerating a row of high-end German sedans. Earlier this month, a Model S spontaneously caught fire in a private San Francisco garage. And, this past Sunday, a parked Model S caught fire in the parking lot of a Hong Kong shopping mall. According to media reports, the sedan, which had been parked for half an hour, took 45 minutes to extinguish.

The automaker has sent a team of investigators to probe the Hong Kong incident.

While Tesla claims its battery packs are designed to vent smoke and heat away from the cabin in the event of a fire, one look at the Shanghai video would give any aspiring owner cold feet. After several seconds of visible smoke towards the rear of the car, the thing goes up like a torch.

A company spokesperson told CNN “we believe the right number of incidents to aspire to is zero.”

[Image: Tesla]

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