Tesla Autopilot, phantom braking.  The NHTSA asks for answers

By June 20, the American manufacturer will have to formally respond to the American authority asking for clarity on the unannounced braking of the driving assistance system

Emiliano Ragoni

– Milan

The US road safety agency, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (Nhtsa), has asked Tesla to officially answer questions about Autopilot “phantom braking” by June 20. The American authority, after receiving 758 reports relating to the unexpected activation of the brakes of the Autopilot driving assistance system, asked the car manufacturer to clarify. In February, NHTSA initiated a preliminary assessment of 416,000 Tesla Model 3 and Model Y vehicles from 2021-2022 in the United States, after the agency said it had received 354 complaints about the brake issue in the past nine months.

Does the Autopilot brake for no reason?

The driver assistance system allows vehicles to brake and steer automatically to change lanes with adequate road markings. In February, the same US safety agency said that “complainants report that rapid deceleration can occur without warning, randomly and often repeatedly in a single driving cycle.” Owners say they have voiced their concerns to Tesla, who dismissed the complaints by saying braking is normal, and some have called it “phantom braking.” An owner of a 2021 Tesla Model Y told NHTSa in October that, while driving on the freeway at 80mph, “the car braked hard and decelerated from 80mph to 69mph in under a second. . The braking was so hard that my head jumped forward and I almost lost control of the car. “

The other investigations of the Nhtsa

Last August, the NHTSa formally opened a separate safety investigation of Tesla’s Autopilot system involving 765,000 US vehicles following a series of accidents involving Tesla models and vehicles with the four arrows activated (Autopilot would therefore have difficulty to identify vehicles in a state of emergency). The preliminary assessment is the first move of the NHTSA that precedes a formal request for recall. In May 2021, Tesla CEO Elon Musk said that removing the radar sensor from the partially automated driving system would solve the “ghost braking” problem complained by several users.

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