Tesla Asked to Respond on Phantom Braking in Model 3 and Y to NHTSA

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration asked Tesla this Friday to respond to its findings after receiving 758 reports of “phantom braking” from Model 3 and Model Y’s driver assistance systems. The story began in February when an investigation was opened into 2021-2022 3s and Ys. Tesla has until June 20 to respond, and has not returned requests for comment from AP or Reuteurs.

A blue Tesla Model Y driving down a scenic parkway.
The NHTSA is investigating the safety of Model 3 and Model Y vehicles reported to have a “phantom breaking” issue. Images: Tesla

What is phantom braking? Is it tied to Autopilot?

A 2021 Model Y owner told the agency in October that on a highway “the car braked hard and decelerated from 80 mph to 69 mph in less than a second. The braking was so violent, my head snapped forward and I almost lost control of the car.” It’s not hard to imagine potential disaster following unexpected, sudden braking at highway speeds.

While not all Model 3s and Ys have Autopilot, they all incorporate standard Active Safety Features including Automatic Emergency Breaking — the issue at the heart of this probe. A separate ongoing NHTSA probe is investigating Tesla’s Autopilot system for a separate series of incidents across even more vehicles.

What’s next?

Tesla faces fines and further scrutiny if it doesn’t respond by June 20. After removing radar sensors and relying purely on cameras for driver assist — a move CEO Elon Musk claimed is key to improving safety — the braking issue persists. It is unclear whether cars without radar experience the issue more or less than their older, radar-equipped counterparts. Should the investigation continue, a large-scale recall could be in the cards.