Some Tesla vehicles may accelerate unintentionally and crash, according to a petition filed to NHTSA on behalf of consumers, Reuters reported Friday. The petition says an estimated 500,000 Tesla vehicles may have a defect known as sudden unintended acceleration.
"As is the agency's standard practice in such matters, NHTSA will carefully review the petition and relevant data," the agency said in a statement. It will conduct a technical analysis, and the Office of Defects Investigation will deny the petition or open a defect investigation, which could eventually lead to a recall.
To file a petition to NHTSA it must be in English and require supporting facts of the claim. The petition cites 127 consumer complaints to the NHTSA covering 123 unique vehicles. Those vehicles include the 2012-2019 Tesla Model S, 2016-2019 Tesla Model X, and 2018-2019 Tesla Model 3. The petitioner alleges 110 crashes and 52 injuries.
On the NHTSA site, there are several complaints for “vehicle speed control” for certain model years. There are 15 vehicle speed control complaints for the 2018 Tesla Model 3, though most of them center on cruise control. In a few cases, however, the owners complained of the vehicle accelerating even with the brake depressed.
Under "2015 Tesla Model S 60 kwh," the agency has posted 21 vehicle speed control complaints filed by consumers. One complainant said the Tesla Model S was parked and locked in the driveway, then accelerated out of the driveway and hit a parked car, with the “front wheels...receiving power while the rear wheels where [sic] locked and dragging, rather than spinning.” Other complaints cited worn-out Velcro causing the floor mats to slip, a complaint which sounds like the one that triggered the Toyota sudden unintended acceleration recall in 2009.
Several petitions were filed in the years preceding the investigation and subsequent recall of about 10 million Toyota and Lexus vehicles, which was followed in 2014 by a $1.2 billion criminal penalty for covering up the issue, and another $1.2 billion settlement to Toyota owners. Toyota originally claimed driver error or that loose floor mats getting stuck on the gas pedal were the reason for the defect. Toyota later admitted to “sticky” pedals that might have become lodged under thick floor mats.
The NHTSA is reviewing the Tesla petition.