Recently new allegations of unintended sudden acceleration in Tesla vehicles have made national headlines. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is reviewing a petition that alleges that Tesla models experience sudden unintended acceleration which results in dangerous situations. The Agency is reviewing the petition, which references 127 separate complaints with 110 crashes and 52 injuries. The review comes on the heels of other Agency involvement in review of Tesla crashes which involve the vehicle’s automated driving technology. In addition to previously reported incidents discussed in two previous blogs, [Technology with Risks & Autonomous Vehicles: Crashing into CT], on December 29, 2019 a Tesla being driven while on Autopilot struck a parked fire truck, resulting in the death of an Arizona woman and serious injuries to her husband [Read More]. The new investigation into the unintended acceleration references approximately 500,000 Tesla vehicles from 2012 to 2019. The petition alleges that the Tesla Model 3, Model S and Model X contain a defect that can cause sudden unintended acceleration, which may result in crash and injury.

Shortly after the Agency opened its investigation, a California law firm filed a lawsuit against Tesla, Inc. on behalf of eight plaintiffs in five separate states alleging that their Tesla vehicles engaged in sudden uncommanded acceleration. The complaint seeks to represent a nationwide class of Tesla consumers, and alleges that the Tesla Model S, Model X and Model 3 all demonstrate high, unexplained sudden unintended acceleration incidents.

Not so fast says The Tesla Team. In a blog [Read More] released on January 20, 2020, The Tesla Team states “this petition is completely false and was brought by a Tesla short-seller.” Tesla claims it investigates every single incident where the driver alleges that the vehicle accelerates contrary to driver input, and that according to their data, the vehicle accelerates if, and only if, the driver told it to do so. The independent position sensors of the accelerator pedals and Autopilot sensor suite are designed so as to prevent the unintended acceleration alleged in the petition, and according to Tesla, in every investigation reviewed by Tesla with the Agency, the data proved the vehicle functioned properly.

The consequences of unintended acceleration in vehicles can result in serious injury or death. High stakes litigation that will pit consumer safety against corporate profit will decide if the claims of sudden unintended acceleration in Tesla vehicles is fact or fiction. Stay tuned.

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