Tesla is one of the most high-profile automakers right now, not only because of the high price tag of its cars but its mission of changing the world through sustainable energy. Because of all the attention it gets, it has to take the lumps along with the praise, and one issue that keeps rearing its ugly head is the safety of the vehicles.
Certainly it can’t be denied that Tesla’s vehicles are safe in some ways, as the violent accidents in which the car’s occupants are safe demonstrates this. However, it seems as if the automaker may have some work to do in others.
Tesla plays up safety angle
Recently Morgan Stanley analysts said safety features will be one of the most important drivers of demand for new vehicles in the coming years, and Tesla CEO Elon Musk has been banging the safety drum for some time. The EV maker spreads reports of cases in which drivers and/ or passengers in its vehicles walk away unscathed from what should be fatal accidents. On the other hand, it defends all the allegations about problems with its vehicles—problems ranging from reported issues with Autopilot to unintended acceleration and problems with the suspension.
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Needless to say, Tesla has done its best to exonerate itself in all of these cases, blaming drivers and saying that it doesn’t know whether its cars are at fault because the equipment was too badly damaged to determine whether the car or driver was at fault. Unfortunately for consumers, it’s getting difficult to cut through all the noise and determine whether the risks of owning a Tesla outweigh the benefits, or vice versa.
Tesla seems to have steering problems
Just this week, vlogger Marques Brownlee, who has provided coverage of his experience as an owner of a 100D Tesla Model S (which he affectionately calls “Apollo”), posted a YouTube video sharing an issue he keeps encountering. Thus far, Tesla has demonstrated an inability to fix it.
While most drivers who encounter a problem with their car are quite upset immediately with the first incident (and understandably given the car’s high price tag), Brownlee has been extremely patient with the automaker. He explains in the video (posted at the bottom of this article) that Tesla is a very young company without the manufacturing experience other automakers have. He understands its position and says he’s giving the company a third chance to rectify the problem.
It has to do with the steering, as he has, on multiple occasions, had to fight resistance from the car while making a turn. He said it is as if the power steering goes out in the middle of the turn, or perhaps the sensors are malfunctioning. Tesla has taken the car in three times now. The first two times, it failed to fix the problem because it keeps recurring. As of the day Brownlee posted the video, his car was still in the shop, but he says that if it happens again, he’s going to have to find another solution.
Tesla denies reports of unintended acceleration again and again
And then there’s the issue of “unintended acceleration,” which has been going on since at least June and seems to be affecting the Model X. Threads on the issue pop up regularly on various Tesla forums, such as this one from September, although one of the posters warns that the thread may be deleted as past ones on the topic have been.
In this post, the Tesla owner claims to have just barely tapped the accelerator, but then the vehicle suddenly lurched forward, much faster than it usually did when he did the same action. Other reports of drivers who claim to have experienced an unintended acceleration, such as the driver in the high-profile incident that destroyed a gym in Florida in August (as reported on by Electrek).
Tesla blamed the driver and said the car’s logs show that the accelerator was pressed instead of the brake pedal and has done the same in the other reported incidents of unintended acceleration with the Model X. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates that about 16,000 accidents per year in the U.S. are caused by the driver mistakenly pressing the accelerator instead of the brake pedal.
More than meets the eye?
Given that there can’t be many Model X crossovers on the road yet and that the number of incidents in which the wrong pedal is pushed is so low, it seems a bit interesting that this issue keeps popping up with the Model X. Tesla won’t share the logs of these incidents, so we can’t know whether the drivers are right or whether the automaker is either lying or mistaken about what’s happening because the logs are somehow faulty.
The latest incident of unintended acceleration is interesting because the driver admits pressing the accelerator but says the car suddenly lurched forward more than usual. This could be because drivers are just not used to electric vehicles, or there could be something else going on. In fact, a complaint filed with the NHTSA sounds very similar to this unintended acceleration incident from the forum. It’s unclear if this is the same driver, but the incident sounds different, as it mentions a building, whereas the other one doesn’t. You can find the complaints the agency has received about Tesla’s Model X at this link.
Brownlee’s experience with the car resisting a turn he is trying to execute, combined with Tesla’s apparent inability to pin down the root of the problem, demonstrate that there may be more than meets the eye here. Also there have been multiple reports of suspension problems, some of which have been reported to the NHTSA and are in the above link. Tesla traded words with a blogger over one of the reports. Autopilot has been under fire for some time as well, and there are numerous complaints filed with the NHTSA over it.
Here’s Brownlee’s video:
It’s unclear whether this same issue has happened to other Tesla owners, but Brownlee tweeted later:
Tesla update: Engineer found a "contaminant" on a component in the circuit for the electrical power steering.
— Marques Brownlee (@MKBHD) December 20, 2016