NHTSA blames drivers for 'sudden unintended acceleration' in Tesla vehicles

Polycount

Posts: 2,752   +571
Staff member
In brief: Back in January of last year, Tesla became embroiled in yet another NHTSA investigation; this time surrounding allegations that the company's cars were suddenly accelerating, leading to crashes and injury. Now, just a couple of weeks away from the anniversary of that report, the NHTSA has cleared Tesla of all wrongdoing and placed the blame firmly on drivers.

NHTSA was acting on information provided by a Mr. Brian Sparks, who requested that the NHTSA "recall all [Tesla] Model S, Model X, and Model 3 vehicles produced from 2013 to the present" due to SUA (sudden unintended acceleration) problems.

To support his complaint, Sparks provided the organization with a total of 232 "non-duplicative" complaints regarding this issue, 203 of which involved collisions with the environment or other vehicles.

After a solid year of investigation, though, the NHTSA has found that Sparks' complaints are largely without merit. In every single instance of a SUA event in which log data was available, "pedal misapplication" was the cause of the acceleration.

In other words, as some of our readers theorized back in 2020, drivers simply pressed the wrong pedal; accelerating when they intended to brake. It's an understandable mistake, of course, and one many of us have made a time or two in our lives (hopefully without crashing). However, a mistake is all it is, and not the result of a vehicle hardware or software flaw.

This is good news for Tesla, but it's also an outcome the company likely predicted from the get-go. The company previously claimed these complaints were brought on in bad faith by a stock "short-seller." If Tesla truly believed that was the case, they had no reason to be concerned here -- and the NHTSA's finalized report backs that up.

To be clear, this report does not clear Tesla of all future wrongdoing. The NHTSA reserves the right to open up a separate investigation at a later date if other, valid complaints come to light. But for now, the company has dodged a bullet, albeit a poorly-aimed one.

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VitalyT

Posts: 5,264   +4,523
This makes good sense. There are so many road accidents where a driver suddenly over-accelerates forward or in reverse, causing a crash. And that's in gasoline cars, in which this can only be caused by the dumb driver. So why won't it happen in an electrical vehicle? Oh, because an electric car is a black box that you can blame for it and get away with being held responsible?

Good thing those chancers are now exposed, fewer *****s on the road, and fewer legal trolls looking for compensation from Tesla. There is no cure for idiocy, it's like in a Mercedes workshop, where you keep paying and paying, but never get anything good for your money.
 
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veLa

Posts: 1,054   +652
It's almost always operator error. I mean, even if your car is accelerating on its own, cut the engine silly!
 
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QuantumPhysics

Posts: 4,030   +4,116
I was driving my Jeep SRT using Adaptive Cruise Control.

I was in the middle lane and the guy in front of me gets out of the lane really quick and suddenly the computer decides to start accelerating rather than "adapting" to the next car ahead.

Computers and sensors are not perfect.

It happens.

Cruise control of any kind is a supplement to driving. NOT a substitute.
 
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Sedziwoj

Posts: 6   +3
I was driving my Jeep SRT using Adaptive Cruise Control.

I was in the middle lane and the guy in front of me gets out of the lane really quick and suddenly the computer decides to start accelerating rather than "adapting" to the next car ahead.

Computers and sensors are not perfect.

It happens.

Cruise control of any kind is a supplement to driving. NOT a substitute.
It is not about this, most cases was on parking. And electric cars have instant torque, so what would end in nothing or small bumper damage, ending in walls... But still it was without any assistant systems, and if I remember correctly, now they add system to prevent it (at lass in some cases)
 

Dimitrios

Posts: 703   +552
I live in CT and the drivers here drive like $hit! To be honest I would actually trust a self driven car over the average human driver.

What should be MANDATORY is to make $hit drivers and drunk drivers drive automated cars or make them use services like UBER or LYFT. There is no point for innocent people and family's die just because of some careless POS!

I drive an old 1999 Camaro SS that has no fancy sensors or even traction control, just 3200lbs with 650HP and power to the rear tires. I ride a street bike and also a truck and have a clean driving record. Driving ain't hard just gotta look and don't be lazy.
 

toooooot

Posts: 1,360   +653
I can understand why. You are getting relaxed, allowing autopilot drive, while you are messaging and reading stuff. Then you are getting back to driving, looking for that break pedal. Nope, acceleration pedal instead.
It is autopilot itself that is kinda responsible for the problem.
They need a visual reminder for a driver that is about to take control from autopilot.
 

Ravey

Posts: 248   +108
I was driving my Jeep SRT using Adaptive Cruise Control.

I was in the middle lane and the guy in front of me gets out of the lane really quick and suddenly the computer decides to start accelerating rather than "adapting" to the next car ahead.

Computers and sensors are not perfect.

It happens.

Cruise control of any kind is a supplement to driving. NOT a substitute.
I would have something similar happen in my Skoda, Once the car in front was more than 50% in switching the lanes, the car would start to accelerate. BUT on the other hand, the amount of times Adaptive control actuall spotted an obstruction I didnt was amazing...
 

mbk34

Posts: 113   +58
It's almost always operator error. I mean, even if your car is accelerating on its own, cut the engine silly!
Sounds simple but this happened to me in a fairly powerful petrol driven automatic. I was having an argument with the wife and had floored the accelerator to join a motorway (freeway). Unfortunately the pedal just stayed down. I tried pulling the pedal up with my foot but the pedal seemed totally disconnected from the engine. I shoved it into neutral but full revs in neutral sounded like the car was about to explode. I then figured, like you, it would be best to turn the engine off. Turns out power steering needs the engine on to work - it was incredibly difficult to steer the car but I managed to get onto a turn off. Next thing I found out was the power assisted brakes also need the engine running. I ended up with both feet on the brake pedal with my whole body arched out the seat trying to slow the car down. Luckily managed to stop before hitting anything.

It all happened because the initial overly hard acceleration had sucked part of the air filter into the carb and jammed it open. Unfortunately couldn't even find where the tool kit was hidden in the car so had to call breakdown. I think if it happened again then I'd use the lower automatic gear settings (had previously only used Drive) and then, once I'd got to the turn off, slip it into neutral and ram the brakes on and only turn the engine off once the car was stopped. I will say it's very difficult trying to diagnose a problem and work out what to do while your vehicle is accelerating out of control through traffic.
 
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fraggleki

Posts: 22   +8
Sounds simple but this happened to me in a fairly powerful petrol driven automatic. I was having an argument with the wife and had floored the accelerator to join a motorway (freeway). Unfortunately the pedal just stayed down. I tried pulling the pedal up with my foot but the pedal seemed totally disconnected from the engine. I shoved it into neutral but full revs in neutral sounded like the car was about to explode. I then figured, like you, it would be best to turn the engine off. Turns out power steering needs the engine on to work - it was incredibly difficult to steer the car but I managed to get onto a turn off. Next thing I found out was the power assisted brakes also need the engine running. I ended up with both feet on the brake pedal with my whole body arched out the seat trying to slow the car down. Luckily managed to stop before hitting anything.

It all happened because the initial overly hard acceleration had sucked part of the air filter into the carb and jammed it open. Unfortunately couldn't even find where the tool kit was hidden in the car so had to call breakdown. I think if it happened again then I'd use the lower automatic gear settings (had previously only used Drive) and then, once I'd got to the turn off, slip it into neutral and ram the brakes on and only turn the engine off once the car was stopped. I will say it's very difficult trying to diagnose a problem and work out what to do while your vehicle is accelerating out of control through traffic.
True, but in this case Tesla's are electric assisted and not hydraulic like old cars. A Tesla should be able to have the motor stopped and still have the steering and braking assist.
 

Markoni35

Posts: 866   +338
Good for Tesla they aren't a foreign car company like Audi or Toyota.
Or Volkswagen. They would immediately have to pay 5 billion dollar fee to the US government, plus a few billion dollar compensation to the "victims" (most of that money actually going to dirty lawyers). And their new cars, just off the production line, would forcefully be parked in parking lots all over the country. Just rotting there, without any possibility of ever being sold.

I'm glad that someone else understands cases against car-producers have nothing to do with law or justice. It's just economy wars renamed to "ecology" or "safety" for stupid audience.
 
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Irata

Posts: 1,115   +1,745
TechSpot Elite
Or Volkswagen. They would immediately have to pay 5 billion dollar fee to the US government, plus a few billion dollar compensation to the "victims" (most of that money actually going to dirty lawyers). And their new cars, just off the production line, would forcefully be parked in parking lots all over the country. Just rotting there, without any possibility of ever being sold.

I'm glad that someone else understands cases against car-producers have nothing to do with law or justice. It's just economy wars renamed to "ecology" or "safety" for stupid audience.
Yup, just look at what GM had to pay for their deadly ignition lock issue or Boeing now for the 737 Max problems vs what VW had to pay for their emissions cheat.