Complaints claim that while using [advanced driver-assistance] Features including adaptive cruise control, the car unexpectedly applies its brakes while driving at highway speeds,” the agency said. “Complainants report that rapid deceleration can occur without warning, randomly, and often repeatedly in a cycle. One drive.”
Tesla owners flooded the NHTSA website with hundreds of complaints of alleged ‘phantom braking’ this following month The Washington Post report Which indicated a sharp rise in the phenomenon. The problem, a malfunction of the forward collision warning and automatic emergency braking systems, occurs when Tesla cars suddenly slow down in response to falsely detected hazards.
Owners began complaining about the problem in greater numbers at the beginning of November, days after the automaker issued a recall for its “full self-driving” program over a glitch that could lead to fake braking. More broadly, the increase followed Tesla’s shift from a multi-sensor perception system that combines cameras and radar to a camera-based system based on what the automaker calls “Tesla Vision.” The series of complaints included several common patterns as well as at least one report of injury.
Following The Post’s article in early February, the NHTSA received about 250 complaints about placebo brakes over the next two weeks. That’s compared to 107 complaints in the past three months – a sharp increase on its own – and just 34 in the previous 22 months.
Tesla, which replaced its public relations department in 2020, did not respond to requests for comment. “NHTSA will determine the scope and severity of the potential problem and fully evaluate potential safety issues,” said NHTSA spokeswoman Lucia Sanchez.
Tesla CEO Elon Musk has repeatedly defended the use of its automated features, Connection Autopilot driver assistance program is ‘unmistakably safer’ than normal driving and decrying ‘fun policing’ as the company has faced multiple recalls in recent weeks — a Clear Reference to federal regulators.
The complaints of phantom braking involving Tesla cars far outnumber those of other automakers that also have advanced driver assistance but rely largely on radar-equipped systems. The increase in complaints sheds light on the types of common scenarios in which landlords report placebo suppression. Of all the complaints, about a third of the sudden slowdowns occurred on two-lane roads or highways, for example, when an oncoming truck was approaching from a distance, according to Post analysis. Teslas across the fleet often react to such situations in the same way, leaving common patterns to emerge in complaints.
“When traffic comes towards me, it randomly throws on the brakes,” Sally Bergquist, of Alexander City, Ala., who experienced frequent sudden decelerations in her 2021 Tesla Model S while driving to Birmingham, said in an interview. “This random braking really worries me.”
NHTSA complaints are not individually verified by the agency — owners describe the problem they are experiencing, and provide the vehicle identification number along with other identifying information when submitting their report. Complaints to NHTSA, as it appears here, can be more frequent as owners learn that they can tell the government about safety problems in their cars, so increases in complaints may not always be due to an increased rate of problems.
But the sheer number of Teslas complaints about phantom braking far outnumbered those of other makes and models of vehicles, indicating a well-known problem of growing importance among the owner population.
Post 2019 analysis covered Tesla Model 3 along with 2020 through 2022 Tesla Model Y and Model 3 cars.
Tesla has faced increasing pressure from the NHTSA on Autopilot and its practice of releasing software updates over the air to address issues with its vehicles, without initiating the formal recall process. The agency is investigating the potential role of the autopilot in about a dozen crashes involving Teslas and parked emergency vehicles while the driver assistance system was active. Tesla released a steady stream of remember Since October, when NHTSA publicly called the company out for failing to issue an official recall when it retrofitted its vehicles to better detect emergency vehicles in low light.
Tesla is facing scrutiny from other regulators, who have trained the lens to lead Musk.
Tesla revealed in its annual financial report, for example, that the Securities and Exchange Commission issued a subpoena on November 16 looking for information about the company’s compliance with the Musk tweets control settlement. Musk and the company faced $20 million in fines, and Musk was forced to relinquish his chairmanship of Tesla’s board of directors, after a 2018 tweet in which he said he had secured funding to take Tesla private at $420 a share. Musk’s potentially market-impacting tweets should also be vetted by a securities attorney.
But a letter from Musk’s attorney on Thursday accused the Securities and Exchange Commission of stalking the CEO and Tesla through “endless and baseless investigations.”
Without appearing in court, she has been weaponizing the consent decree by using it to attempt to muzzle and harass Mr. Musk and Tesla, while ignoring her court-ordered duty to transfer the $40 million she still holds while Tesla shareholders continue to write Musk’s attorney, Alex Spiro, In a letter to U.S. District Judge Alison J. Nathan, “Worst of all, the SEC appears to be targeting Mr. Musk and Tesla for a relentless investigation largely because Mr. Musk remains an outspoken critic of the government. The Securities and Exchange Commission’s massive efforts appear calculated to discourage its exercise of First Amendment rights rather than enforce generally applicable laws in an equitable manner.”
The Securities and Exchange Commission did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The NHTSA audit presents a separate case for the company, which has so far benefited from a relatively relaxed regulatory environment in experimenting with its future features.
Tesla aims to simplify its range of devices – and eliminate the use of radar – as part of its efforts to usher in a new era of autonomous driving with the millions of vehicles it has put on the road. The company gave owners dual driver assistance options in the form of autopilot, which is largely designed for highway use, and a “fully self-driving” beta, which provides driver assistance functions on city and residential streets.
Musk said he believes Tesla will be able to safely deploy self-driving vehicles based on the software.
“I would be shocked if we didn’t make fully autonomous driving safer than human this year,” he said on the company’s recent earnings call. Musk said people failed to understand the seriousness of Tesla’s business.
“It’s not, like, a small advantage,” he said on the call. “It is, perhaps, the deepest software upgrade in history.”
Experts in vehicle perception systems say that relying on cameras to navigate roads can sometimes be an issue, as they can be more easily confused by radar about factors such as distance or an oncoming billboard.
Some owners who spoke with The Post said they experienced phantom braking for months — coinciding with the period when the Tesla took off the radar — but it hadn’t occurred to them to previously report the problem to the NHTSA.
Owners described the problem as “dangerous” and “scary” in emails to The Post, and several described Tesla’s cruise control features as unusable in light of the problems.
Marilyn Myers, 52, of Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania, said frequent phantom braking forced him to stop using cruise control altogether on his monthly trips to Philadelphia on Interstate 76.
Since he bought his Tesla Model Y in June 2021, this has happened nearly eight times, moving his car from about 70 mph to 40 mph, with no apparent danger in the vicinity.
“The first or second time it happened, I was shocked by it,” he said. “I quickly became very careful about wearing it whenever the cars were behind me.”
Myers, who said he enjoys his Model Y, said he wants Tesla to tackle the problem — and fast.
“It seems we are not alone,” he said. “Essentially, there’s a problem with the car – let’s fix it, and let’s move on.”