Why is the NHTSA Investigating Tesla? - Adamson Ahdoot LLP

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Why is the NHTSA Investigating Tesla?

March 8, 2022 Robert Jalon

Tesla, the auto manufacturer who introduced Autopilot, is currently being investigated by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) for issues with their braking system. The “phantom braking issue” doesn’t seem to be a new problem for the car’s driver assistance program, but a rapid increase over the last year in braking complaints about certain models has prompted concern.

After over 354 such owner complaints within the last nine months, a federal investigation has been opened into the matter. Although the issue seems to be widespread, the federal agency is focusing on Tesla Model 3 and Model Y vehicles manufactured between 2021 and 2022. The NHTSA says that about 416,000 cars are affected in total.

The number of complaints was evidently sufficient for the agency to open an inquiry; this will be its third open investigation into Tesla, according to the NHTSA. They’ve also been conducting an investigation into the propensity of earlier issue (radar-equipped, sensors) Teslas to crash into emergency vehicles and yet another into the automaker’s now-disabled feature that allowed occupants to play video games on the car’s infotainment screen while the vehicle was in motion.

The latest investigation centers on Tesla’s advanced driver system applying the brakes for no apparent reason while the car is moving. It seems as if the system is incorrectly detecting an object in the road and applying the brake to avoid the object. As yet, there have been no accidents reported because of this problem, but it could potentially cause an accident if the car brakes unexpectedly while a vehicle is following too closely.

Sudden, unexpected braking problems appear to have significantly increased after Tesla was forced to roll back its latest version of Autopilot last year because of system glitches. Surprisingly, phantom braking issues increased after the rollback. Since then, drivers have reported a sudden or slow deceleration while using the car’s self-driving system. Owners have also reported the car can unexpectedly brake more than once during a driving cycle.

A hallmark for Tesla vehicles, the Autopilot system has been praised for its ability to cut down on driver workload. In December 2021, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety came away happy enough to award the Model Y a “Top Safety Pick+” rating. However, the vehicle’s system has also been heavily scrutinized for it being plagued by glitches that could potentially cause a crash or worse, a tragic injury or death.

Police in Independence, Missouri are still investigating an accident they said killed a man on March 2 after the Tesla he was driving stopped in the middle of the Interstate, reports Yahoo Finance. The 2019 Tesla Model 3’s sudden stop caused two vehicles to crash into it. The passenger in the Model 3 was taken to a local hospital for treatment, while the occupants of the other two vehicles were not injured. Jack Taylor, a spokesperson for the Independence Police Department, said investigators plan to extract data from the Tesla’s computers in the coming days to better piece together what happened.

If you or a loved one were injured in a crash involving a Tesla, the car accident attorneys at Adamson Ahdoot LLP can help guide your next steps. They can inform you of your rights regarding legal action and take great pride in helping victims obtain justice.

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