US auto safety regulators have launched another investigation into Tesla, this time linked to complaints that its cars can stop on the roads for no apparent reason.
The government says it has received 354 complaints from owners in the past nine months about “phantom braking” in Tesla Models 3 and Y. The investigation covers around 416,000 vehicles from model years 2021 and 2022.
No accidents or injuries were reported.
The vehicles are equipped with partially automated driver assistance features such as adaptive cruise control and “autopilot”, which allow them to brake and steer into their lanes automatically.
Documents released Thursday by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration indicate that vehicles can brake unexpectedly at highway speeds.
“Complainants report that rapid deceleration can occur without warning, and often repeatedly during a single drive cycle,” the agency says.
Many owners in complaints say they feared a rear-end accident on a highway.
The probe is another in a series of law enforcement efforts by the agency that include Autopilot and “Full Self-Driving” software. Despite their names, neither function can drive vehicles unattended.
Messages were left Thursday seeking comment from Tesla.
This is the fourth official investigation into the Texas automaker in the past three years, and NHTSA has been overseeing 15 Tesla recalls since January 2021. In addition, the agency has sent investigators into at least 33 crashes involving Tesla has been using driver assistance systems since 2016 in which 11 people were killed.
In one of the complaints, a Tesla owner from Austin, Texas reported that a Model Y on Autopilot repeatedly brakes for no reason on two-lane roads and highways.
“Phantom braking ranges from minor throttle response to reduce speed to full emergency braking which dramatically reduces speed at a fast pace resulting in hazardous driving conditions for my vehicle occupants as well only for those who might follow behind me,” the owner wrote in a lawsuit filed Feb. 2. Individuals filing complaints are not identified in NHTSA’s public database.
Tesla CEO Elon Musk has battled with US and California government agencies for years, battling with NHTSA and specifically the Securities and Exchange Commission.
Early Thursday, Musk’s attorneys sent a letter to a federal judge in Manhattan accusing the SEC of harassing him with investigations and subpoenas for his Twitter posts. In 2018, Musk and Tesla each agreed to pay $20 million (around Rs 150 crore) in civil fines for Musk’s tweets about having the money to privatize the $420 (around Rs 31) company. Rs 350 crore) per share. Funding was far from secure and the company remains public. The settlement specified governance changes, including ousting Musk as chairman of the board, as well as approving Musk’s tweets.
Attorney Alex Spiro’s letter accuses the SEC of trying to “muzzle” Musk, largely because he is an outspoken critic of the government. “The SEC’s outsized efforts appear calculated to chill its exercise of First Amendment rights rather than to enforce generally applicable laws impartially,” the letter said.
Shapiro wonders why the SEC hasn’t distributed the $40 million (about Rs 300 crore) in fines to Tesla shareholders more than three years after the settlement.
The judge ordered the SEC to respond to the letter by February 24. The SEC declined to comment Thursday.
Just last week, NHTSA asked Tesla to recall nearly 579,000 vehicles in the United States because a “Boombox” feature can play sounds over an external speaker and dim audible warnings for pedestrians. of an approaching vehicle. Tesla CEO Elon Musk, when asked on Twitter why the company accepted the recall, replied, “Fun police made us do it (sigh).”
Michael Brooks, acting executive director of the nonprofit Center for Auto Safety, said it was heartening to see NHTSA’s enforcement actions “after years of turning the other way,” with Tesla. But he said the company continued to release software on US roads that was untested to ensure it was safe. “A piecemeal investigative approach to every problem that comes to the head does not solve the larger problem of Tesla’s safety culture – the company’s continued willingness to beta test its technology on the American public while misrepresenting the capabilities of its vehicles,” Brooks wrote in an email. Thusday.
The Washington Post reported an increase in phantom braking complaints from Tesla owners on Feb. 2.
Other recent Tesla recalls involved vehicles equipped with “fully self-driving” that were programmed to operate stop signs at slow speeds, heating systems that do not clean windshields quickly enough, chimes seatbelt rings that don’t ring to warn drivers who don’t. ‘t buckled up, and to fix a feature that allows movies to be played on touchscreens while cars are being driven. These issues were to be resolved with online software updates.
In August, NHTSA announced a probe of Teslas on Autopilot not stopping for emergency vehicles parked on roads. This investigation covers a dozen accidents that killed one person and injured 17 others.
Thursday’s investigation comes after Tesla recalled nearly 12,000 vehicles in October over a similar phantom braking issue. The company has sent a software update online to address an issue with its more sophisticated “Full Self-Driving” software.
Tesla made a software update in late September that aimed to improve emergency vehicle fire detection in low-light conditions.
Selected Tesla drivers beta tested the “Full Self-Driving” software on public roads. NHTSA also asked the company for information about testing, including a Tesla requirement that testers not disclose information.