NHTSA Is Examining Claims of Unintended Acceleration Affecting Up to 500,000 Tesla Cars

In one case, the acceleration allegedly happened without a driver behind the wheel.

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A document published on the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) website reveals that the administration has received a consumer petition that alleges that up to 500,000 Tesla vehicles may be at risk of unintentional acceleration—potentially without a driver behind the wheel.

According to the document, the administration's Office of Defects Investigation (ODI) received the petition via email on December 19, 2019. This filing requested that it look into alleged defects in Tesla models produced from 2012 through 2019 (Models S, X, and 3) that could allegedly lead to unintended acceleration in up to 500,000 vehicles. The petition cites 127 reports of unintended acceleration by 123 individual vehicles, of which 110 were crashed resulting in 52 occupant injuries.

According to Reuters, the majority of alleged cases of unintended acceleration reportedly occurred during owners' attempts to park their vehicles. One Pennsylvania Tesla owner reported their car hopping a curb and hitting a chainlink fence, while a Massachusetts resident claims their Tesla "suddenly lurched forward," breaking through their garage doors and crashing into a wall.

While these sound like they could be attributable to pedal confusion, which can happen with any vehicle, at least one individual claims their vehicle accelerated on its own while unoccupied. A Californian reported exiting and locking their Tesla Model S 85D before "the vehicle started accelerating forward towards the street and crashed into a parked car."

Other reports outline the untended acceleration occurring in traffic, or while using Tesla's controversial, oft-misunderstood driving aid Autopilot. As of January 13, the NHTSA's ODI was evaluating the petition. If it concludes that a vehicle defect is possible, it will open an investigation, but if not, it will publish a petition denial notice in the Federal Register.

"NHTSA has received a defect petition regarding claims of sudden unintended acceleration in certain Tesla Model S, Model X, and Model 3 vehicles," an NHTSA spokesperson told The Drive. "As is the agency's standard practice in such matters, NHTSA will carefully review the petition and relevant data. The agency's final decision will be posted in a closing resume on www.nhtsa.gov. It will also be published in the Federal Register."

"NHTSA encourages the public to contact the agency with safety concerns, including any related to these vehicles, online at NHTSA.gov or by calling 888-327-4236."

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