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Tesla Model 3 Owner Gets Stranded in the Middle of the Freeway in Her Third Drive

Dana Brems used to drive a Toyota Prius in college, but she always wanted to have a Tesla. When she became a doctor, she bought one as a gift to herself. Autopilot was a feature Brems loved. On her third drive, her brand-new Model 3 decided to stop in the left lane of the I-5 highway right after a blind corner. Luckily, nothing worse happened, but the mere possibility made her want to return her car. Tesla does not want it back and blames her for everything.
Dana Brems bought her Tesla Model 3 recently and got stranded in the left lane of a freeway 8 photos
Photo: Dana Brems
Dana Brems bought her Tesla Model 3 recently and got stranded in the left lane of a freewayDana Brems bought her Tesla Model 3 recently and got stranded in the left lane of a freewayDana Brems bought her Tesla Model 3 recently and got stranded in the left lane of a freewayDana Brems bought her Tesla Model 3 recently and got stranded in the left lane of a freewayDana Brems bought her Tesla Model 3 recently and got stranded in the left lane of a freewayDana Brems bought her Tesla Model 3 recently and got stranded in the left lane of a freewayDana Brems bought her Tesla Model 3 recently and got stranded in the left lane of a freeway
Brems started her video by telling how she bought her Model 3. Tesla told her she would have to wait until December to get her EV, but she took delivery in just two weeks, which she now finds suspiciously early. There are some possible explanations for that: she could have gotten a car someone else refused, or Tesla’s backlog is not as long as it says. Recently, the company was accused of speeding delivery of vehicles with Full Self-Driving included – a $15,000 plus for beta software most people will never get to use.

The doctor was driving from Los Angeles to San Diego on October 7. She activated Autosteer for the first time and said the Model 3 was changing lanes every ten seconds or so. When she reached Camp Pendleton after stopping in Irvine for a late lunch, a car in front of hers slowed down. That was the trigger for her car to also decelerate and not move again.

An error popped up saying Autopilot was disengaged, but that was pretty much it. There was no warning that the vehicle was losing power, was out of charge, or anything like that. Before leaving, Brems made sure that her car would warn her if she had to stop in a Supercharger to get more power. It never advised her to do so, and when the vehicle stalled on the left lane of I-5 after a blind corner, there was very little she could do apart from calling 911.

Dana Brems bought her Tesla Model 3 recently and got stranded in the left lane of a freeway
Photo: Dana Brems
Shifting gears, braking, or accelerating did not make the car move. A hard reset also made no difference. While Brems was trying that, people would overtake her car on the shoulder or the right lane. When the person who was with her in the car called 911, the police made an extremely urgent request for a tow truck using her AAA number. A few minutes later, a policeman arrived and helped divert traffic and push the Model 3 to the shoulder.

Brems saw in the Tesla app that there was a service for roadside assistance for vehicles that stopped on the road. She selected it and received a text message 15 minutes later suggesting she call 911. She clarified she had just done that and that a tow truck was on its way. The person replying said they would close the request and told Brems to drop the car at the San Diego service center, which would be open on Monday.

The problem was that the doctor lives in Santa Monica, where Tesla has another service center. She asked if she could take her car there, but the request was already closed. She had to open a new one to ask about that and was informed that she could leave her car at the lot there and drop the keys in a drop box for the vehicle to be checked the following Monday, October 10. When the tow truck driver got there, the lot was closed, and there was no drop box for the keys. The vehicle was parked in front of the gates, and the truck driver left the keys under a trash box.

Dana Brems bought her Tesla Model 3 recently and got stranded in the left lane of a freeway
Photo: Dana Brems
While she waited for the Tesla Service Center to confirm it had her car, Brems followed what happened to it with the Tesla app. The battery pack charge dropped radically from 140 miles to 29 miles until the service center said it was checking the Model 3. Sentry Mode was deactivated when the charge dropped to such a low level it could not power it anymore.

According to the Tesla Service Center, Brems was to blame because the vehicle failed for lack of charge – despite still having 29 miles of range when they analyzed the EV. The doctor tried to argue that it had 140 miles and about 40% of charge left. She showed them videos and pictures that proved that. Yet, she recorded a lady saying that she had to charge her car even after fully charging it at night, driving 90 miles, and having 140 miles left to drive when her vehicle stopped in the middle of the freeway.

The Tesla clerk insists that Brems should have checked the percentage because “even if you think you have 200-something miles in range, your battery percent life would be something different.” Yes, that’s on tape. The doctor was elegant enough to sum that up simply by saying: “That’s not normal.”

Dana Brems bought her Tesla Model 3 recently and got stranded in the left lane of a freeway
Photo: Dana Brems
Brems says that she would have gotten a warning about low battery if that was the case: she didn’t. On top of that, she had the mode on to reroute her to a charging station in case that was necessary. The car did not require her to go anywhere. It just stopped. The doctor also said that she can’t understand why she should go with the battery percentage instead of the miles estimate if Tesla itself delivered the car in that mode.

After this weird exchange with the company, Brems left the vehicle in the Tesla Service Center because she wants to return it. Tesla refuses to get the car back and return her money, while the doctor does not think it is an option to sell the vehicle with the defect it presents: she rightfully fears someone else may face the same life-threatening situation she did.

Dana Brems bought her Tesla Model 3 recently and got stranded in the left lane of a freeway
Photo: Dana Brems
We contacted Brems to try to learn what next steps she intends to follow. Meanwhile, she sees only two possible explanations for what happened, and none of them is good for the EV company. The first is that the vehicle’s range estimator is indeed “wildly inaccurate” – as the EV maker wants her to believe. That would mean her Model 3 “holds a third as much as the average Tesla.” In that case, it needs at least a battery pack replacement.

The other scenario is that there is “a really dangerous malfunction happening in cars” like hers, and she wants a reasonable answer for what it is. Now that her story is public, she may get one, as well as a request to sign a non-disclosure agreement if Tesla agrees to buy the Model 3 back. It would not be the first time.

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About the author: Gustavo Henrique Ruffo
Gustavo Henrique Ruffo profile photo

Motoring writer since 1998, Gustavo wants to write relevant stories about cars and their shift to a sustainable future.
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