Acquittal for Tesla: US authorities find no evidence of uncontrolled acceleration

The petition filed by a Tesla short seller with the US traffic safety authority NHTSA in September 2019 made waves: In initially 109 and ultimately a total of 232 cases, the company’s electric cars in the USA should have accelerated sharply without any influence from the person behind the wheel or despite attempts to brake, which in total did 203 accidents. The NHTSA should therefore recall all Teslas sold since 2013, he demanded. The authority checked the input and now announced: There were no indications to be found that would speak for the initiation of a deeper investigation.

Tesla accidents caused by mixing up pedals

A clear acquittal for Tesla, if not in court. In January 2020, reported exclusively worldwide that behind the petition was not simply a concerned citizen or affected customer, but a man who, according to his own Twitter reports, had sold Tesla shares short. Two days later, the company published a blog post that also included this information. Tesla also said it had investigated several cases of alleged undesirable acceleration and consistently found that its electric cars were working as intended.

With the current declaration of the NHTSA at the end of the preliminary investigation, this representation can be considered confirmed. “After reviewing the available data, the ODI did not find any evidence that would speak in favor of initiating a defect investigation,” it says. Instead, all cases for which data were available simply came about by accidentally pressing the wrong pedal, explained the authority, as Tesla did before. In addition, there is no evidence that the arrangement of the pedals for power and brake makes confusion more likely.

Proceedings involving 662,109 electric cars

The petition was therefore rejected, which means that the case is closed. Apparently knowing about the rules for the NHTSA, the short seller had chosen the form of the “defect petition”, in which the authority, unlike other submissions, is obliged to give a written reason for its decision. However, there was no major negative reaction on the stock exchange to the confirmation of the test procedure by the NHTSA in January 2020. Conversely, it is therefore not to be expected that the conclusion of the investigation of the share without consequences for Tesla will give further impetus. After all, it was about 662,109 vehicles.

Audi, for example, had to contend with complaints and even a wave of lawsuits due to alleged undesirable accelerations in the USA in the 1980s. At that time, no technical errors were found either. In recent months, several Tesla drivers in China have also claimed after accidents that their electric car accelerated against their will, which Tesla rejected in each case. It looks like not everyone can cope with the rapid acceleration that characterizes a Tesla – and some then try to blame the unfamiliar technology.


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