Electric car specialist Tesla has emphatically denied its vehicles are subject to “unintended acceleration”, claiming the petition tabled yesterday is “completely false” and was started by a financial speculator who would benefit if Tesla’s share price tanked.
A prepared statement on Tesla’s blog overnight said: “There is no ‘unintended acceleration’ in Tesla vehicles. This petition is completely false and was brought by a Tesla short-seller.”
Tesla said it investigates “every single incident where the driver alleges to us that their vehicle accelerated contrary to their input, and in every case where we had the vehicle's data, we confirmed that the car operated as designed".
In other words, Tesla wrote, “the car accelerates if, and only if, the driver told it to do so, and it slows or stops when the driver applies the brake”.
Most unintended acceleration incidents occur when the driver mistakes the brake pedal for the accelerator, a problem that is happening more frequently, especially among older drivers as they begin to lose their faculties.
“While accidents caused by a mistaken press of the accelerator pedal have been alleged for nearly every make and model of vehicle on the road, the accelerator pedals in Model S, X and 3 vehicles have two independent position sensors, and if there is any error, the system defaults to cut off motor torque,” the Tesla statement said.
“Likewise, applying the brake pedal simultaneously with the accelerator pedal will override the accelerator pedal input and cut off motor torque, and regardless of the torque, sustained braking will stop the car,” the Tesla statement continued.
The company said it also uses the “Autopilot sensor suite” to detect “potential pedal misapplications and cut torque to mitigate or prevent accidents when we’re confident the driver’s input was unintentional”.
Tesla says each system is “independent and records data, so we can examine exactly what happened”.
Yesterday, the Reuters news agency reported that the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) would review a petition which cited 127 consumer complaints to the agency involving 123 separate vehicles. The complaints reportedly included 110 crashes and 52 injuries covering the 2012-19 Tesla Model S, 2016-19 Model X and 2018-19 Model 3.
The petition had also called on NHTSA to issue a recall for a total of 500,000 vehicles.
Despite the assertions of the petition tabled yesterday, Tesla said in its statement: “We are transparent with NHTSA, and routinely review customer complaints of unintended acceleration with them. Over the past several years, we discussed with NHTSA the majority of the complaints alleged in the petition. In every case we reviewed with them, the data proved the vehicle functioned properly.”