NHTSA Hears From Angry Tesla Owner About Phantom Braking Problem After Near Miss

Tesla FSD close call 15 photos
Photo: Philip Koopman / YouTube screenshot
Tesla Autopilot and FSDTesla Autopilot and FSDTesla Autopilot and FSDTesla Autopilot and FSDTesla Autopilot and FSDTesla Autopilot and FSDTesla Autopilot and FSDTesla Safety Score BetaTesla Safety Score BetaTesla Safety Score BetaTesla Safety Score BetaTesla FSB Beta Request DisclaimerTesla's Request Button for FSD Beta and How It Is Doing on Public RoadsFSD Video Shows Near-Head-On Collision Avoided by Human Driver
Experiencing a phantom braking episode is similar to going through the first earthquake in your life: it's more than obvious something is happening but, for a brief moment, you have no idea what's going on.
Perhaps we should explain what phantom braking even means since not everyone drives modern vehicles with the sort of driver's assistance systems that can cause it. The easiest way to explain it would be to describe it as a malfunction of the emergency braking. That is the feature meant to apply the braking in case of an imminent crash if the driver is too busy looking for the peanut that fell on the floor and fails to notice the truck coming to a halt in front of them.

In most cars, it works off the radar sensor (also used for adaptive cruise control), but since newer Teslas are all about vision and have given up on their front-mounted radar, they will do it based on sight alone.

Although undoubtedly useful when triggered for a reason (the system can at least reduce the force of the impact, if not avoid it altogether), it is a completely terrifying experience when coming out of the blue. Picture this: you're cruising down the freeway when all of a sudden and with nothing in front of you for two hundred yards, the car deploys its full braking power, ABS screeching and all, while the dashboard lights up and the sound system beeps loudly. Panic attack incoming in three, two...

However awful this might be for the driver of the car, it's probably even creepier for the people driving behind the affected car. A good driver will keep one eye on the car in front and the other beyond it since that's the best way to predict what might happen next. The lack of an obstacle there means the last thing they will expect is the emergency brake, so it would be understandable if seeing the taillights of the car in front of them light up red, its rear end lifting up, and some smoke coming off the tires took the driver by surprise.

If that sounds like the perfect recipe for rear-ending, it's probably because it is. Teslas have famously had these things happen to them reasonably often, and now one such experience has prompted an owner to take the matter further and file a complaint with the NHTSA.

Even worse is the fact that not being able to use these features (out of safety concerns) means the $10,000 (or whatever they paid since the price varied throughout the years) investment in Tesla’s “Full Self-Driving Beta” is essentially money down the drain. That probably explains why the owner (Reddit user called Jackbird) reportedly decided to go official and complain to the authorities. “How anyone can defend this awful product and company blows my mind,” he says angrily in his post.

The source of his grievance isn’t mainly financial, though. According to his story, the phantom braking episode, which happened on the I69, caused the car behind him to swerve onto the shoulder to avoid hitting his Model 3. It was a close call, one that was probably a few feet away from turning into a nasty crash. With that in mind, we’d say his concern is valid – “Told my wife that we aren’t using TACC or AP any longer.” The thing is, with the cruise control being linked to Autopilot, he can’t even use that basic feature anymore. And he paid nice money for this privilege.
If you liked the article, please follow us:  Google News icon Google News Youtube Instagram

Editor's note: Image is not directly related to the incident described in the article

About the author: Vlad Mitrache
Vlad Mitrache profile photo

"Boy meets car, boy loves car, boy gets journalism degree and starts job writing and editing at a car magazine" - 5/5. (Vlad Mitrache if he was a movie)
Full profile


Would you like AUTOEVOLUTION to send you notifications?

You will only receive our top stories