The U.S. government is looking into claims that certain Tesla vehicles suffer a defect that can cause sudden unintended acceleration. According to a petition filed with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), there have been 110 crashes and 52 injuries linked to the issue. Keep in mind that unintended acceleration is a buzzword both because the idea that a car might accelerate on its own, without input from the driver, is scary and because other automakers such as Toyota and Audi have in the past been tangled up with similar accusations.
This latest NHTSA petition cites 127 consumer complaints involving 123 unique Tesla vehicles. Around 500,000 vehicles are affected by the inquiry, including 2012–2019 Tesla Model S sedans, 2016–2019 Tesla Model X SUVs, and 2018–2019 Tesla Model 3 sedans.
One complaint references an alleged incident from November 2018 in which a Model X accelerated on its own while making a U-turn, even though the driver claims to have been pressing the brakes. The electric SUV apparently hit a parked vehicle and left the owner with bruises as a result. Another complaint from a Model S owner alleges the car accelerated unintentionally while pulling into a parking spot in 2013, causing it to hit a light post.
Tesla has not yet responded to our request for comment on the matter. But this situation on its face seems to closely mimic Toyota’s relatively recent unintended acceleration scandal from 2010, when the automaker recalled millions of vehicles. Now, as then, things might not be so black-and-white. A NASA probe into Toyota found no evidence that an electronics malfunction caused unintended accelerations in the automaker’s products. But government agencies identified other problems, namely sticky accelerator pedals and a design flaw allowing pedals to be trapped by floor mats. And in MotorTrend’s testing on the matter, we determined that even if an electronic glitch were to befall a Toyota or any other contemporary vehicle that led to unintended throttle applications, modern braking systems are strong enough to overpower the engine and bring the car to a safe stop.
We’ll have to wait and see what happens in Tesla’s case. For now, NHTSA will review the findings and decide whether or not to open a formal defect investigation.
Source: NHTSA, Associated Press
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