US agency will review petition to formally probe Tesla vehicles

Petition calls on NHTSA to formally investigate half a million Tesla vehicles over sudden acceleration incidents.

Many of the consumer complaints cited in the petition to be reviewed by a US federal agency report sudden acceleration incidents when drivers were attempting to park Tesla vehicles in a garage or at a curb [File: Fabrizio Bensch/Reuters]

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) in the United States said Friday it will review a petition asking the agency to formally investigate 500,000 Tesla Inc vehicles over sudden unintended acceleration reports.

The petition covers 2012 through 2019 model year Tesla Model S, 2016 through 2019 Tesla Model X, and 2018 through 2019 Tesla Model 3 vehicles, the agency said.

The petition cites “127 consumer complaints to NHTSA involving 123 unique vehicles”. The reports include 110 crashes and 52 injuries, the agency added.

Tesla did not immediately comment Friday on the development.

Many of the complaints report sudden acceleration incidents when drivers were attempting to park vehicles in a garage or at a curb. Others claimed the sudden acceleration happened while people were in traffic or using driver assistance systems – and that these incidents led to crashes.

In one complaint, a driver said a 2015 Tesla Model S 85D in California was closed and locked when he claimed: “a few moments later the vehicle started accelerating forward towards the street and crashed into a parked car”.

A Tesla driver in Avondale, Pennsylvania was pulling into a parking spot at an elementary school when the vehicle accelerated on its own, the complaint said, adding: “It went over a curb and into a chain link fence.”

Another complaint said a Tesla driver in Andover, Massachusetts was approaching her garage door “when the car suddenly lurched forward” and “went through the garage door destroying two garage doors”. The Tesla stopped when it hit the garage’s concrete wall.

In October, the NHTSA said it was reviewing whether Tesla should have recalled 2,000 of its electric cars in May instead of issuing a software upgrade to fix a potential defect that could have resulted in battery fires in Model S and Model X vehicles from the 2012-2019 model years.

The 2,000 vehicles covered by the September petition to the NHTSA received a battery management software upgrade in May in response to a potential flaw that could trigger non-crash-related fires. A lawyer who filed the petition, Edward Chen, told Reuters news agency in October that he strongly believes “this number is much larger than 2,000.” The review is ongoing.

Last week, NHTSA said it was probing the December 29 crash of a Tesla Model 3 that left a passenger dead after the vehicle collided with a parked fire truck in Indiana.

The crash is the 14th involving Tesla that NHTSA’s special crash investigation programme has taken up in which it suspects the company’s so-called Autopilot or other advanced driver assistance system was in use.