Petition Claims Tesla Vehicles To Blame for ‘Sudden Acceleration’ Crashes

The Tesla Model X. Image credit: Tesla

US authorities reviewing claims that some Tesla electric vehicles are prone to suddenly accelerate and cause crashes, amidst company’s denials

US road safety authorities said they would examine a petition demanding the recall of some 500,000 Tesla electric vehicles over reports of sudden unintended acceleration.

The petition covers Tesla Model S 2012 through 2019, Tesla Model X 2016 through 2019 and Tesla Model 3 2018 through 2019 vehicles, citing 127 complaints involving 123 unique vehicles, said the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).

The reports in the petition include 110 crashes and 52 injuries.

The NHTSA released a redacted version of the lengthy petition alleging that Tesla vehicles experience unintended acceleration far more often than other cars on the roads and urging the agency to “recall all Model S, Model X and Model 3 vehicles produced from 2013 to the present”.

Tesla's Model 3 sedan. Image credit: Tesla
Tesla’s Model 3 sedan. Image credit: Tesla

Sudden acceleration

The agency said it would review the petition, and would decide on whether to begin an investigation at a future date.

The petition cites both complaints filed with the NHTSA and media reports of crashes attributed to unintended acceleration.

The complaints include accounts of sudden acceleration when the driver was trying to park as well as incidents that allegedly took place when driver assistance systems were engaged.

The petitioner, Brian Sparks, said Tesla had been “unresponsive” to complaints by drivers citing sudden acceleration issues.

Critics noted that Sparks, who is not a Tesla owner himself, holds “short” positions on Tesla shares, according to a report by CNBC.

‘Pedal misapplication’

The position means Sparks has a financial incentive to drive Tesla’s shares down.  Sparks claimed, however, that his investigation was motivated by concern for crash victims.

Tesla has not yet commented on the petition, but in 2018 said it investigates the vehicle diagnostic logs for all sudden unintended acceleration incidents reported to the company.

“In every case the vehicle’s diagnostic logs confirm that the vehicle operated as designed,” the company said at the time.

“Accidents involving ‘pedal misapplication,’ in which a driver presses the accelerator pedal by mistake, occur in all types of vehicles, not just Teslas. The accelerator pedals in Tesla vehicles have two redundant sensors that clearly show us when the pedal is physically pressed down, such as by the driver’s foot.”

The NHTSA is currently investigating a fatal Tesla crash that occurred on 29 December, 2019, over concerns that the Tesla’s Autopilot assistance system may have been engaged at the time.

In October the agency said it would investigate whether Tesla should have recalled 2,000 of its electric vehicles in May instead of issuing a software update.

The update fixed a potential defect that could have caused battery fires in Model S and Model X vehicles from 2012-2019 model years.

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