Tesla faces another investigation

US regulators are looking into complaints that some cars can unexpectedly brake at highway speeds

The US National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) said on Thursday that it’s opening a formal investigation into 416,000 Tesla vehicles over reports of unexpected brake activation tied to its driver assistance system Autopilot.

The probe covers 2021-2022 Tesla Model 3 and Model Y vehicles. The government agency says it has received 354 complaints from owners during the past nine months about “phantom braking.” 

According to the NHTSA, the vehicles under review have an advanced Autopilot system that allows them to brake and steer automatically within lanes.

“Complainants report that the rapid deceleration can occur without warning, at random, and often repeatedly in a single drive cycle,” the watchdog said.

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Owners have reportedly raised concerns with Tesla, which has dismissed the complaints, saying the braking is normal. One owner of a 2021 Tesla Model Y told the NHTSA that, while he was driving on a highway at 80 miles per hour in October, “the car braked hard and decelerated from 80mph to 69mph in less than a second. The braking was so violent, my head snapped forward and I almost lost control of the car.”

In August, the NHTSA launched a formal safety probe into Tesla’s Autopilot system in 765,000 US vehicles following a series of crashes involving the company’s models and emergency vehicles.

The watchdog is currently investigating several issues with the electric vehicle manufacturer, which has issued 10 recalls since October, including many for software issues and some under pressure from the agency.

Jonathan Adkins, executive director of the Governors Highway Safety Association, wrote on Twitter on Thursday: “Another day, another issue with Tesla. Good to see NHTSA being more active in reigning this company in.”

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