Tesla’s ‘phantom brakes’ problem is getting worse and US government has questions

When we last checked in on Tesla’s “phantom brakes” problem, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said it had received 350 complaints from owners saying their vehicles brake for no reason. Now that number stands at 758, and the US government has some questions.

On May 4, the NHTSA sent a 14-page “request for information” letter to Tesla about these incidents, including a request for all consumer and field reports it received about false brakes, as well as reports of crashes, injuries, deaths, and property damage claims.

NHTSA also wants to know if Tesla’s Full Self-Driving system was active during any of these incidents. Tesla has until June 20, 2022 to comply with the request, although it can request a postponement if desired. (The letter was first reported by the Associated Press.)

Reports of “phantom brakes” first surfaced last fall, when Tesla was forced to roll back version 10.3 of its Full Self-Driving (FSD) beta software, the company’s advanced driver assistance system, due to issues with forward collision warnings and unexpected braking. .

But after the rollback, the number of complaints actually increased significantly, with the NHTSA receiving at least 107 complaints from November to January, compared to just 34 in the previous 22 months, according to the report. The Washington Post† In February, the NHTSA began investigating incidents involving Tesla Model 3 and Model Y vehicles after receiving 354 complaints.

NHTSA’s Office of Defects Investigation opened a “preliminary review,” which is the stage before the agency could issue a formal recall, covering approximately 416,000 vehicles. To date, there have been no reports of accidents, injuries or fatalities due to this issue.

The problem can be traced to Tesla’s decision last year to remove radar sensors from new Model 3 and Model Y vehicles. The decision came after Musk publicly expressed a desire to rely solely on cameras to power the company’s advanced driver assistance system.

Tesla has been criticized by safety advocates and regulators for its willingness to let its customers test what is essentially an unfinished version of a software product that Musk has long promised will lead to fully autonomous vehicles on the road. Earlier this year, the company was forced to release a software update to remove an FSD feature that allows cars to perform a “rolling stop” — a maneuver in which the vehicle moves slowly through a stop sign without coming to a complete stop. (A rolling stop is a common driving maneuver, despite being illegal in all 50 US states.)

Tesla has not responded to a request for comment, nor since 2019, when it dissolved its public relations department.

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