Does Your Tesla Suddenly Brake for No Reason? You're Not Alone

NHTSA: More than 750 Tesla owners have reported 'phantom braking' phenomenon
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Jun 3, 2022 10:22 AM CDT
Hundreds of Complaints Logged on 'Phantom Braking' in Teslas
The Tesla company logo is seen on a vehicle at a Tesla dealership in Littleton, Colo., on Feb. 2, 2020.   (AP Photo/David Zalubowski, File)

More than 750 Tesla owners have complained to US safety regulators that cars operating on the automaker's partially automated driving systems have suddenly stopped on roadways for no apparent reason. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration revealed the number in a detailed information request letter to Tesla that was posted Friday on the agency's website, per the AP. The 14-page letter dated May 4 asks the automaker for all consumer and field reports it has received about false braking, as well as reports of crashes, injuries, deaths, and property damage claims. It also asks whether the company's "Full Self-Driving" and automatic emergency braking systems were active at the time of any incident.

The agency began investigating phantom braking in Tesla's Models 3 and Y last February after getting 354 complaints. The probe covers an estimated 416,000 vehicles from the 2021 and 2022 model years. In February, the agency said it had no reports of crashes or injuries. In opening the probe, the agency said it was looking into vehicles equipped with automated driver-assist features such as adaptive cruise control and "Autopilot," which allows them to automatically brake and steer within their lanes. "Complainants report that the rapid deceleration can occur without warning, and often repeatedly during a single drive cycle," the agency said. Many owners wrote in their complaints that they feared a rear-end crash on a freeway.

The NHTSA's letter focuses on Tesla's testing of the automated systems when it comes to detecting metal bridges, S-shaped curves, oncoming and cross traffic, and different sizes of vehicles, including large trucks. The agency also wants information on how cameras deal with reflections, shadows, glare, and blockage due to snow or heavy rain. The agency is now seeking information on warranty claims for phantom braking, including owner names and what repairs were made. It's also looking for info on Tesla's sensors, any testing or probes into the braking problems, or if any modifications were made. It's the fourth formal investigation of the Texas automaker in the past three years. The NHTSA is also supervising 23 Tesla recalls since January 2021.

(Read more Tesla stories.)

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