Feb 17, 2022 - Economy & Business

Safety regulator opens third Tesla probe in 6 months

Tesla CEO Elon Musk in Shanghai in January 2020.
Tesla CEO Elon Musk in Shanghai in January 2020. Photo: Ding Ting/Xinhua via Getty) (Xinhua/Ding Ting via Getty Images

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) opened a new investigation into Tesla vehicles Thursday, this time for unexpected braking while in autopilot and driving at highway speeds.

Why it matters: It's the third investigation that NHTSA has opened into the electric vehicle manufacture's driving features in the last six months.

By the numbers: NHTSA said its Office of Defects Investigation has received 354 complaints alleging that 2021-2022 Tesla Model 3 and Model Y vehicles unexpected activate brakes while in autopilot, which allows the vehicle to brake and steer automatically within its lanes.

  • "Complainants report that the rapid deceleration can occur without warning, at random, and often repeatedly in a single drive cycle," NHTSA said.

A spokesperson for Tesla did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The big picture: Tesla recently has also had to recall and update the software for thousands of its vehicles using the Full Self-Driving (FSD) beta program because it may allow some models to conduct "rolling stops" at intersections.

  • The NHTSA last year also questioned Tesla's lack of a software recall when it updated its Full Self-Driving software in late September so the system could detect flashing emergency vehicle lights in low light conditions and adjust vehicle speed in response.
  • Federal law requires automakers to submit a recall when they issue an "over-the-air" update that mitigates a defect that poses an unreasonable risk to drivers.

Our thought bubble, via Axios' Joann Muller: What's new, and different, about many Tesla recalls is that they can be fixed fairly easily with a remote software update. No more making an appointment to go to the dealership. This is the future for recalls.

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