DETROIT — More than 750 Tesla owners have complained to U.S. safety regulators that cars running on the automaker’s partially automated driving systems suddenly came to a halt on the roads.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration revealed the number in a detailed information request letter to Tesla that was posted on the agency’s website Friday.
The 14-page letter dated May 4 asks the automaker for all consumer and field reports it has received on false braking, as well as reports of accidents, injuries, fatalities and property damage claims . He also asks if the company’s “Full Self Driving” and automatic emergency braking systems were active at the time of the incident.
The agency began investigating phantom braking of Tesla Models 3 and Y last February after receiving 354 complaints. The investigation covers about 416,000 2021 and 2022 model year vehicles. In February, the agency said it had no reports of accidents or injuries.
The letter gives Tesla a June 20 deadline to respond to the request for information, but says the company can request an extension.
Details of the letter and news that Tesla CEO Elon Musk is considering layoffs at the company sends shares of Tesla Inc. down more than 9% on Friday.
Musk said he had a ‘super bad feeling’ about the economy and wanted to cut 10% of the electric vehicle maker’s jobs – which would translate to nearly 10,000 positions – and freeze hiring , according to an email he sent to executives.
The email obtained by Reuters was sent on Thursday under the heading “Suspend all hiring globally”. It comes just days after Musk said ‘remote work is no longer acceptable’ and ordered employees at Tesla and its rocket company SpaceX to return to the office ‘at least’ 40 hours a week or find a new workplace.
In Thursday’s email, Musk said he had a “super bad feeling about the economy,” echoing recession fears voiced by people like JPMorgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon, who went from forecasting economic storm clouds to “a hurricane”, commenting this week that the economy has become “distorted” by inflation.
A message was left early Friday seeking comment from Tesla.
In opening the investigation, the agency said it was looking at vehicles equipped with automated driver assistance features such as adaptive cruise control and “autopilot”, which allows them to brake and steer. automatically in their tracks.
“Complainants report that 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 accident on a highway.
In the letter, the road agency asks for the initial speed when the cars started to brake, the final speed and the average deceleration. He also asks if the automated systems have detected a target obstacle and if Tesla has video of the braking incidents.
The agency is now seeking information on warranty claims for ghost braking, including owners’ names and repairs performed. It also looks for information on Tesla’s sensors, any testing or investigation of brake issues, or if any modifications have been made.
The letter focuses on Tesla’s testing of automated systems when it comes to detecting metal bridges, S-shaped curves, oncoming and cross traffic, and different vehicle sizes, including big trucks. The agency also wants information on how the cameras handle reflections, shadows, glare, and blocking from snow or heavy rain.
The agency is asking Tesla to detail its assessment of the “alleged fault” in the automated systems, including what caused the unnecessary braking, what failed and the risk to motor vehicle safety the problem poses. He asks Tesla “what warnings, if any, the operator and others inside and outside the vehicle would get that the alleged defect was occurring or that the component in question was malfunctioning.”
The investigation is another in a series of enforcement efforts by the agency that include Autopilot and “Full Self-Driving” software. Despite their names, neither function can drive vehicles unattended.
It’s the fourth official investigation into the Texas automaker in the past three years, and the highways agency is overseeing 23 Tesla recalls since January 2021.
The agency is also investigating complaints that the automatic emergency braking systems of more than 1.7 million newer Hondas can stop vehicles for no reason.
A broader investigation is underway into accidents involving partially automated driving systems from all car manufacturers. Since 2016, the agency has sent teams to 34 accidents in which the systems were either in use or suspected to be working. Of the 34, 28 involved Teslas.
Fifteen people died in the crashes under investigation and at least 15 others were injured. Of the deaths, 14 occurred in crashes involving Teslas, according to agency documents.
The agency is also investigating why Teslas on Autopilot crashed into emergency vehicles parked on the roads.
Information for this article was provided by Taylor Telford and Faiz Siddiqui of The Washington Post.