Jeff Fuentes Gleghorn
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) sent a letter to Tesla revealing over 750 complaints about so-called “phantom braking” when using Tesla’s partially automated driving systems. The NHTSA is asking Tesla for any reports it has gotten about phantom braking, as well as crashes, injuries, deaths, and property damage claims.
One Wisconsin resident filed a complaint on the NHTSA website, saying that they were “driving north on Wisconsin route 14 at about 60 mph in my Tesla model 3 using the cruise control. When a large transportation truck came from the opposite direction, my Tesla suddenly braked sharply. A Ford model F150 truck was following behind me and almost crashed into the back of my car.” A different Tesla driver in Wisconsin said “[violent braking] occurs nearly every time I use the cruise control. I have had cars in back of [sic] me nearly hit me due to the sudden and unexpected braking at highway speeds.”
Tesla stock prices dropped more than 9 percent after the NHTSA letter was revealed on June 3. The report came out only weeks after two Tesla car fires made headlines. One, in Canada, involved a Tesla Model Y suddenly stopping and powering down while driving. The car then began smoking before bursting into flames. With the power out, the doors would not open normally, and the driver kicked out their window to escape. While all Tesla vehicles have a manual release for their doors in case of emergency, the smoky car may have made it difficult to find.
In another incident involving a Tesla Model 3, a father parked his car and went inside. He received an alert to his phone telling him the car alarm was going off. When he went outside he saw his Tesla covered in smoke. He ran to open the door, only to see the back seat covered in flames. He said the fire started directly underneath his four-month-old’s car seat. Thankfully, nobody was injured.
The Tesla Models 3 and Y are the same as the cars under investigation for phantom braking. These models were part of a recall in February of this year, when the NHTSA learned that Tesla’s “Full Self-Driving” software allowed them to roll through stop signs at nearly 6 miles an hour. Rolling stops are not legal anywhere in the United States.