The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has opened a preliminary investigation on approximately 416,000 Tesla Model 3 and Model Y from the 2021 and 2022 model years over the vehicles’ tendency to unexpectedly apply their brakes while their driver-assist systems are engaged. This issue, dubbed among the EV community as “phantom braking,” could be a safety problem, especially for Teslas on Autopilot or FSD Beta that are traveling on highway speeds.
Tesla’s vehicles are equipped with a suite of driver-assist features that allow them to make the driving experience easier. Even among cars without the company’s FSD Beta system, Teslas are typically equipped with basic Autopilot, which includes features that allow vehicles to brake, accelerate, and steer automatically within their lanes. FSD Beta, which is only available to owners that qualify for the program through their Safety Scores, allow Teslas to perform automated driving tasks within inner-city streets.
According to the NHTSA, it has received 354 complaints from Tesla Model 3 and Model Y owners over the past nine months about their vehicles’ phantom braking issues. According to the agency’s ODI Resume, complaints from Tesla owners indicate that phantom braking incidents happen without warning, and seemingly at random times. Fortunately, no crashes or injuries connected to phantom braking incidents have been reported to date.
The NHTSA’s ODI Resume provided a summary of its preliminary investigation into Tesla’s vehicles in the following section.
“The Office of Defects Investigation (ODI) has received 354 complaints alleging unexpected brake activation in 2021-2022 Tesla Model 3 and Model Y vehicles. Received over the past nine months, the reports have often been characterized as ‘phantom braking’ by consumers. Tesla describes the subject vehicles as equipped with a suite of advanced driver assistance system (ADAS) features referred to as Autopilot which Tesla states will allow the vehicle to brake and steer automatically within its lanes.
“The complaints allege that while utilizing the ADAS features including adaptive cruise control, the vehicle unexpectedly applies its brakes while driving at highway speeds. Complainants report that the rapid deceleration can occur without warning, at random, and often repeatedly in a single drive cycle. ODI is opening this Preliminary Evaluation (PE) to determine the scope and severity of the potential problem and to fully assess the potential safety-related issues.”
Tesla is currently experiencing increased scrutiny from the NHTSA, with the company being hit with investigations and several recalls. Since October alone, Tesla ended up issuing ten recalls for its vehicles, some of which were done under pressure from the NHTSA. A good number of these recalls, such as the disabling of FSD Beta’s rolling stop feature, were addressed through a free over-the-air software update.
The NHTSA’s ODI Resume about its recent Tesla investigation can be accessed below.
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