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Tesla owners are complaining about a problem that makes cars slam the brakes for no reason

Tesla owners are complaining to the US government about unexpected braking.

Associated Press

  • Tesla owners are complaining more about “phantom braking,” according to The Washington Post. 
  • They’re noticing incidents where their vehicles slam on the brakes seemingly for no reason. 
  • The braking sometimes happens at highway speeds. 

An increasing number of Tesla owners are lodging complaints with the federal government about incidents where their cars unexpectedly — and without human input — slammed on the brakes. 

Known as “phantom braking,” the problem has been a topic of conversation in Tesla owner circles for years. But in recent months, more people have reported the problem to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration than ever before, according to an analysis of customer complaints by The Washington Post. 

Owners reported 107 phantom braking incidents to NHTSA in the last three months, according to the Post. That’s compared with just 34 in the 22 months preceding. 

Some owners say their vehicles consistently hit the brakes when they use Tesla’s Autopilot feature, a form of adaptive cruise control. The incidents sometimes happened at highway speeds, making owners fearful they would cause a crash.

“I have to keep my foot over the accelerator pedal and force the car to keep speed, especially if there is a car close behind me. Otherwise, I’m scared I’ll cause the tailing car to hit me,” one owner said. 

Anyone can report a safety issue with their vehicle to NHTSA, and the complaints are not verified by the agency before they’re made public. NHTSA told the Post it’s in communication with Tesla about the issue. 

According to complaints, the headlights or shadows from vehicles in the oncoming traffic lane sometimes triggered braking. One owner told The Post that a harmless plastic bag several feet ahead of his 2022 Model Y caused the SUV to abruptly slow down. In a long-term review of the 2022 Model Y, the automotive site Roadshow called the SUV “critically flawed” due to the phantom braking issue. 

Most new vehicles are equipped with automatic emergency braking (AEB), a feature that stops the car if its sensors register an imminent collision. Tesla’s AEB feature appears to be mistakenly identifying hazards that don’t exist. The problems seem to have intensified after Tesla removed radar sensors from its vehicles in favor of an array of cameras. 

Tesla CEO Elon Musk is determined to make his vehicles fully autonomous using only cameras that “see” the surrounding environment. Many industry experts are skeptical of this approach, convinced that vehicles need other tech — like radar and lidar, which uses lasers to generate a 3D map — to dependably navigate complicated streets and highways. 

Tesla has come under increased scrutiny for its driver-assistance technology as of late. NHTSA is investigating 12 Tesla crashes where vehicles crashed into stopped emergency vehicles while Autopilot or other driver-assistance technology was switched on. 

Are you a Tesla owner or employee with a story to share? Contact this reporter at [email protected]

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