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Tesla Responds To “Sudden Unintended Acceleration” Petition To NHTSA

Tesla responded to reports of sudden unintended acceleration involving its cars in a blog post January 20.

A few days ago, reports surfaced that the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration was reviewing a petition that claims there have been more than 100 incidents of sudden unintended acceleration involving Tesla automobiles in the US since 2013. Those incidents involved Model S, Model X, and Model 3 vehicles manufactured by Tesla. According to Consumer Reports and other news agencies, the person who filed the petition asked NHTSA to order the recall of every Tesla sold in the US since 2013.

Tesla Model 3

Those reports created a firestorm as the online community exploded with comments from Tesla supporters and Tesla detractors. In response, Tesla on January 20 posted a statement on its company blog explaining its position on the matter.

There is no “unintended acceleration” in Tesla vehicles
The Tesla Team January 20, 2020

This petition is completely false and was brought by a Tesla short-seller. We investigate every single incident where the driver alleges to us that their vehicle accelerated contrary to their input, and in every case where we had the vehicle’s data, we confirmed that the car operated as designed. In other words, the car accelerates if, and only if, the driver told it to do so, and it slows or stops when the driver applies the brake.

While accidents caused by a mistaken press of the accelerator pedal have been alleged for nearly every make/model of vehicle on the road, the accelerator pedals in Model S, X and 3 vehicles have two independent position sensors, and if there is any error, the system defaults to cut off motor torque. Likewise, applying the brake pedal simultaneously with the accelerator pedal will override the accelerator pedal input and cut off motor torque, and regardless of the torque, sustained braking will stop the car. Unique to Tesla, we also use the Autopilot sensor suite to help distinguish potential pedal misapplications and cut torque to mitigate or prevent accidents when we’re confident the driver’s input was unintentional. Each system is independent and records data, so we can examine exactly what happened.

We are transparent with NHTSA, and routinely review customer complaints of unintended acceleration with them. Over the past several years, we discussed with NHTSA the majority of the complaints alleged in the petition. In every case we reviewed with them, the data proved the vehicle functioned properly.

According to CNN Business, the petition was filed by Brian Sparks of Berkeley, California. Sparks is alleged to be a short seller of Tesla stock, which is also what CNBC, which seemed to cover the petition first, indicated. Short sellers have suffered significant loses in the past several months as the price of Tesla shares has surged.

NHTSA will only say that it has received the complaint and is reviewing it. There is no word on when it will complete its review process or what action it may or may not take once its review is concluded.

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Steve writes about the interface between technology and sustainability from his home in Florida or anywhere else The Force may lead him. 3000 years ago, Socrates said, "The secret to change is to focus all of your energy not on fighting the old but on building the new." Perhaps it's time we heed his advice.


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