The curse of the gull-wing door may be descending on Tesla Motors.
For decades, those top-hinge doors have captivated car designers and enthusiasts -- and flummoxed the car engineers and owners who must make them work. Despite numerous attempts dating to the 1950s, no automaker has successfully marketed a high-volume vehicle with the feature.
Now upstart Tesla is running into quality problems and potential safety issues related to its "falcon-wing" rear doors on the Model X.
Tesla last month updated the Model X's software in an attempt to fix a problem that has dogged the $80,000-plus electric crossover since its launch last September. Sensors in the doors stop unpredictably or falsely detect objects and prevent the doors from closing, a situation Tesla owners refer to as "phantom detections."
Starting Aug. 24, Tesla began over-the-air updates of the software that controls the Model X's rear doors. Part of the update included programming to "adjust" sensors in the door frame trim area designed to detect objects that could be pinched between door and the vehicle's body.
Those pinch sensors were apparently deactivated -- a move that now has some Model X owners worried that rear-seat passengers, especially children, could be injured if they get their hands and arms caught between the heavy doors and the body.
Two videos appearing on YouTube last week dramatized the risk. One shows the door on an updated Model X slicing a cucumber in half, while the other shows how much pressure the door exerts on an object before it reverses itself, about 30 to 33 pounds, the video claims.
Tesla wouldn't comment on the videos or the specific changes it made to the Model X door system. "We adjusted Model X Falcon Wing doors via a software update in order to improve closure consistency and reduce false detection of obstacles," a Tesla spokeswoman told Automotive News via email.