United States to probe Tesla crashes over 'unexplained acceleration'

Andrew Cummings
January 19, 2020

It can then either deny the petition in its entirety or open a defect investigation, which is the trigger for a potential recall.

Late Friday, NHTSA released a redacted version of the lengthy petition that said, "Tesla vehicles experience unintended acceleration at rates far exceeding other cars on the roads" and urged NHTSA "to recall all Model S, Model X and Model 3 vehicles produced from 2013 to the present". One Pennsylvania Tesla owner reported their vehicle hopping a curb and hitting a chainlink fence, while a MA resident claims their Tesla "suddenly lurched forward", breaking through their garage doors and crashing into a wall.

The petition, filed by Brian Sparks, who claims to be an independent investor, quotes numerous owner reports of the alleged incidents.

The U.S. government is looking into claims that certain Tesla vehicles suffer a defect that can cause sudden unintended acceleration.

Tesla didn't respond to CR's emails seeking comment.

Sudden unintended acceleration, or SUA, refers to incidents when a vehicle quickly and unexpectedly takes off or speeds up for no apparent reason.

In a similar low-speed incident, a Massachusetts Tesla driver says that she was approaching her closed garage when the vehicle accelerated. Others claimed the sudden acceleration happened while in traffic or when using driver assistance systems and led to crashes.

The Tesla stopped when it hit the garage's concrete wall. A California owners of a 2015 Model S says his EV was closed and locked, but then "a few moments later the vehicle started accelerating forward towards the street and crashed into a parked auto". Any member of the public can petition NHTSA for a defect investigation, and many have been rejected by the agency.

Three weeks after the crash, the owner got a letter from Tesla saying that the accelerator was depressed to 48 percent just before the crash and 98 percent at the time of impact.

The 2,000 Tesla vehicles covered by the petition to the NHTSA received a battery management software upgrade in May.

In the other Tesla crashes that NHTSA is investigating, authorities are trying to determine whether the cars were operating on Autopilot, a system created to keep a auto in its lane and a safe distance from other vehicles.

The agency is also investigating another December 29 fatal crash involving a Model S Tesla in California.

Separately, the National Transportation Safety Board will hold a hearing February 25 on a fatal crash in Mountain View, California, involving a Tesla that was operating on the company's Autopilot driver assist system.

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