Federal Regulators Investigate Tesla ‘Phantom Braking’ Reports

The investigation follows 354 complaints and an earlier recall

Tesla Model 3 driving in the snow Photo: Tesla

Federal safety regulators have opened an investigation into the 2021 and 2022 Tesla Model 3 sedan and Tesla Model Y SUV because of reports that the vehicles unexpectedly brake while in motion—a phenomenon known as “phantom braking”—when Autopilot or other active driver assistance systems (ADAS) are engaged.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration says it has received 354 complaints from drivers who say their Tesla vehicles applied their brakes without warning at highway speeds with ADAS features turned on, including adaptive cruise control and Autopilot. NHTSA says there have been no crashes or injuries related to this problem. About 416,000 vehicles are included in the investigation.

more on Tesla recalls

Tesla issued a recall to address a similar issue in November 2021, which it said was caused by a communication error introduced during an October software update. As of Nov. 12, 2021, Tesla told NHTSA that 100 percent of these vehicles had received another software update that addressed the earlier phantom braking issue.

During a defect investigation, NHTSA obtains information from the automaker, which also can present its own arguments related to the potential defect. NHTSA says that most defect investigations are closed within 12 months, either because the manufacturer decides to conduct a recall or because NHTSA decides that there is no safety-related defect. Sometimes the defect investigation requires further analysis.

A recall happens when either an automaker or NHTSA discovers a safety defect that must be corrected or finds that a vehicle does not meet federal safety standards. These defects often come to light after consumer complaints. Learn how to report a safety complaint to NHTSA. According to NHTSA, most recalls are initiated by automakers without any involvement from the agency.

Head shot photo of CRO Cars CIA editor Keith Barry

Keith Barry

Despite my love for quirky, old European sedans like the Renault Medallion, it's my passion to help others find a safe, reliable car that still puts a smile on their face—even if they're stuck in traffic. When I'm not behind the wheel or the keyboard, you can find me exploring a new city on foot or planning my next trip.