Tesla is now under NHTSA investigation for Autopilot’s phantom braking problem

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) confirmed that it opened an investigation into Tesla’s ‘phantom braking’ problem under Autopilot.

It’s a problem that owners have complained about for nearly a yr.

Back in November, Electrek released a report called ‘Tesla has a serious phantom braking problem in Autopilot.‘

It highlighted a major increase in Tesla owners reporting dangerous phantom braking events on Autopilot.

Phantom braking is a term used to explain when a sophisticated driver assistance system (ADAS) or a self-driving system applies the brakes for no good reason.

The system could be falsely detecting an object on the road or anticipating a collision that won’t actually occur and apply the brake to attempt to avoid it.

Obviously, phantom braking is something you need to avoid since it might probably create accidents if someone is following too closely behind you.

This issue just isn’t recent in Tesla’s Autopilot, but our report focused on Tesla drivers noticing an obvious increase in instances based on anecdotal evidence, however it was also backed by a transparent increase in complaints to the NHTSA.

Our report made the rounds in a couple of other outlets, however it didn’t really go mainstream until now.

Nevertheless, the Washington Post ended up picking the story up with a really similar report earlier this month that was more widely distributed.

On the time, NHTSA commented on the report saying that they were looking into the difficulty and talking to Tesla about it.

Today, NHTSA’s Office of Defects Investigation (ODI) confirmed that it opened an investigation into the matter.

NHTSA wrote within the investigation notice:

“The Office of Defects Investigation (ODI) has received 354 complaints alleging unexpected brake activation in 2021-2022 Tesla Model 3 and Model Y vehicles. Received over the past nine months, the reports have often been characterised as “phantom braking” by consumers. Tesla describes the topic vehicles as equipped with a collection of advanced driver assistance system (ADAS) features known as Autopilot which Tesla states will allow the vehicle to brake and steer mechanically inside its lanes.

The complaints allege that while utilizing the ADAS features including adaptive cruise control, the vehicle unexpectedly applies its brakes while driving at highway speeds. Complainants report that the rapid deceleration can occur by surprise, at random, and sometimes repeatedly in a single drive cycle.”

Interestingly, the agency says that the investigation focuses on 2021-2022 Model 3 and Model Y vehicles.

Nevertheless, owners of older Model 3 and Model Y vehicles have also been reporting an increased variety of phantom braking events, especially after the software update to vision-only Autopilot in May 2021.

Here’s the notice in full:

[scribd id=559522298 key=key-Zor9NqN15lM7WA7xEFkx mode=scroll]

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