Bizarro World of Tesla Braking

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PALO ALTO, Calif. – In the Bizarro World envisioned by the folks at DC Comics (think Superman) everything was the opposite of normal. As January ended and February began, it seems Tesla electric vehicles had entered that realm, at least where its braking systems were concerned.

At the same time, these braking issues facing a brand that has garnered an overall positive image with the American public might put into question just how capable vehicles are to take over tasks formerly controlled by the driver.

First, the Palo Alto automaker announced Jan. 27th it would recall nearly 54,000 Model S, X, 3 and Y sedans with the Full Self Driving (Beta) software because of its “rolling-stop” feature. This feature allows the cars to roll through an intersection controlled by an all-way stop sign without coming to a complete stop (if certain conditions were met).

Related post:
Ignoring Stop Signs Causes Self-Driving Tesla Recall

Then, on Feb. 2nd, The Washington Post published a report outlining a major increase in complaints to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) from Tesla owners of “phantom braking,” a condition which caused their vehicles to stop or virtually stop even though there was nothing in their paths to warrant such a reaction by the cars.

Phantom braking had led to a Tesla recall in October 2021 of 11,728 vehicles to remedy potential false automatic-emergency braking (AEB) incidents. According to NHTSA

Part 573 Safety Recall Report 21V-846, the company remedied the condition Oct. 25th with an over-the-air firmware upgrade.

So, in the course of a week, the nation’s number-one seller of electric vehicles faces reports of braking when there was no reason and no braking even when required to by law. Both conditions could lead to unsafe conditions for both the occupants of the Teslas as well as other motorists and pedestrians.

A day after Tesla announced the recall for the rolling-stop factor, Senators Edward Markey (D-Mass.) and Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) questioned the efficacy of the self-driving capabilities of the vehicle due to braking issues.

“These latest developments with Tesla’s Autopilot and Full Self Driving systems are exactly why we’ve long expressed our concerns with this flawed technology,” said the Senators in a joint statement. “Although automated driving and driver assistance systems have the potential to enhance safety, they must be implemented with strong safeguards that will ensure our cars follow the rules of the road and drivers are fully engaged. We commend NHTSA for its ongoing work to investigate the situation and urge it to continue taking all appropriate action to protect all users of the road.”

In both cases, inquiries of Tesla by the media, including The Washington Post and The BRAKE Report, went without response.

In the case of the rolling-stop issue, Tesla has agreed to recall 53,800 vehicles to program the FSD (Beta) to eliminate the rolling-stop feature.

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According to the Post’s report, NHTSA is reviewing the complaints and deciding whether a full-scale investigation is warranted. The newspaper’s reporting was based upon examining a year’s worth of data.

Regardless of the specific reasons, the Bizarro operation of these braking systems might cause lawmakers, consumers and manufacturers to be a bit more cautious on the rapid implementation of non-human control of a vehicle.

Mike Geylin
Mike Geylin

Mike Geylin is the Editor-in-Chief at Hagman Media. Geylin has been in automotive communications for five decades working in all aspects of the industry from OEM to supplier to motorsports as well as reporting for both newspapers and magazines on the industry.