NHTSA is asking Tesla for more information after 'phantom braking' complaints

By Lennon Cihak
NHTSA is looking into Tesla's sudden braking issue
NHTSA is looking into Tesla's sudden braking issue

The National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA) is probing Tesla for its “phantom braking” issue, which has raised numerous concerns amongst drivers. The agency is requesting the automaker respond by June 20.

The NHTSA has received 758 reports on the phantom braking issue, according to Reuters. A report from the NHTSA back in February stated, “complainants report that the rapid deceleration can occur without warning, at random, and often repeatedly in a single drive cycle.”

“Phantom braking” is when Autopilot is engaged and the vehicle slows down suddenly. The issue is particularly concerning on freeways where there may be little to no time for other drivers to react safely. It has raised concern for the drivers because it’s unpredictable.

The issue has become worse since May 2021 when Tesla started producing some vehicles without radar. Vehicles without radar or those that have transitioned to Tesla Vision rely solely on cameras for Autosteer and TACC.

The phantom braking issues have been around for several years. The issues started when Teslas were having accidents with tractor trailers crossing in front of them. Additionally, it happens more frequently at underpasses or when there are shadows on the road, which can be mistaken for the side of a truck.

This probe into Tesla’s Autopilot system comes after numerous complaints from Tesla owners, and Tesla dismissing the complaints.

According to Reuters, a Model Y owner reported to the NHTSA that the vehicle slowed down from 80mph to 69mph in less than a second.

“The car braked hard and decelerated from 80 mph to 69 mph in less than a second,” the owner wrote. “The braking was so violent, my head snapped forward and I almost lost control of the car.”

In May 2021, Elon Musk stated that removing the radar sensor would solve the “phantom braking” issue.

We anticipate Tesla will respond and explain what the cause of the issue is. Depending on the NHTSA’s ideal solution, Tesla may need to take the phantom braking issue more seriously and focus on fixing or minimizing the sudden braking through an OTA update.

This could potentially be done by using the data that Tesla has already gathered from its fleet, identifying when and where phantom braking happens most frequently, and then allowing the software to dictate whether it should use the brakes.

Personally, I have noticed my Model 3 braking for road signs that flash orange above the interstate. For example, a sign may have orange flashing lights to indicate that ice may be on the bridge. I’ve also noticed this when traffic lights are controlling the flow into an interstate from the on ramp in California. These instances, however, are more predictable and not as abrupt or sudden.

A new feature recently discovered in Tesla’s 2022.16 update hints that vehicles may use brakes when regenerative braking is limited or unavailable. This will help maintain a consistent experience when driving, especially since the feature is so highly used across Tesla drivers.

Tesla to reward Powerwall customers in California who opt-in to virtual power plant program

By Lennon Cihak
Tesla to launch new virtual power plant program
Tesla to launch new virtual power plant program

Tesla’s new partnership with gas and electric company PG&E in California will give Powerwall owners the opportunity to earn money while giving energy back to the grid.

The virtual power plant (VPP) is a connection of distributed energy storage systems that work in tandem to give energy back to the grid to avoid dirty and costly peaker power plants. Essentially, when the grid is being strained, then the VPP can kick in and draw power from Powerwall owners enrolled in the program, and other distributed energy storage system owners, to use clean energy and avoid brownouts across the state.

Here are some of the advantages with this new VPP with PG&E:

Stabilize California’s Grid: The extra capacity your Powerwall provides could help avoid or reduce blackouts in a severe emergency. This way, Powerwall can keep the lights on for both you and your community.

Clean the Grid: Tesla will dispatch your Powerwall when the grid is in critical need of additional power. That is when the least efficient generators would typically come online.

Unite as a Tesla Community: Team up with other Powerwall owners who are accelerating the world’s transition to sustainable energy and help form the largest distributed battery in the world - potentially over 50,000 Powerwalls. As part of the VPP, your Powerwall will have an outsized positive impact on the grid over traditional demand response programs.

Maintain Your Energy Security: Powerwall will discharge during VPP events but won’t discharge below your Backup Reserve. Adjust your Backup Reserve to control your contribution while maintaining backup energy for outages.

Earn Compensation: Through the ELRP pilot, you will receive $2 for every additional kWh your Powerwall provides during an event. You don’t have to change your energy usage behavior to participate.

In 2021, Tesla piloted a test VPP program in California for Powerwall owners to voluntarily opt-in without compensation. The test VPP program would then pull energy from the Powerwalls when the grids needed it.

“Become a part of the largest distributed battery in the world and help keep California’s energy clean and reliable,” reads a statement from Tesla. “Opt-in to the Tesla Virtual Power Plant (VPP) with PG&E and your Powerwall will be dispatched when the grid needs emergency support. Through the Emergency Load Reduction Program (ELRP) pilot, you will receive $2 for every additional kWh your Powerwall delivers during an event. Adjust your Backup Reserve to set your contribution, while maintaining backup energy for outages.”

With Tesla and PG&E’s new VPP program owners will receive $2/kWh, which is quite significant. For comparison, where I live in Southern California, Tesla charges $0.58/kWh for supercharging during peak hours.

According to Electrek, “they could earn anywhere from $10 to $60 per event or more for bigger systems.” 

Tesla stated that they have roughly 50,000 Powerwalls that may be eligible for this new program.

Tesla Cybertruck design finalized; to enter production mid-2023: Elon Musk [Video]

By Gabe Rodriguez Morrison
Tesla Cybertruck
ksbw.com

In an interview with Tesla Owners Silicon Valley, Tesla CEO Elon Musk revealed that the Cybertruck design has now been finalized. Musk didn’t get into details about the design, but gave a rough timeline for production of the Cybertruck.

With the design now "locked", he estimates production will begin “the middle of next year, roughly 12-months’ish” which would put the first Cybertruck deliveries in the second half of 2023.

Musk did not say when the final design will be revealed, but recent sightings of the alpha builds give us many hints as to what to expect.

When discussing the Cybertruck design Elon said they “got too carried with the…,” before pausing, hinting that they have added a number of new features not included on the original prototype.

While it's not clear what additional features Elon was about to mention, we have an idea of what is to come.

One of the most controversial additions has been the side mirrors, which are required by law, although Musk has said that they will be easily removable by owners.

Another controversial feature of the Cybertruck is the windshield wiper. While we have only seen the large single wiper, Musk did say that the final design would be different than what has been seen on recent builds.

Tesla did patent a laser beam windshield wiper, but we'll likely see something more traditional on the Cybertruck.

Another feature we could see on the final build are doors with no handles. At the Cyber Rodeo, Elon opened the Cybertruck door by pushing a button on the side of the truck. The doors also seemingly open and lock depending on proximity to the vehicle.

You can watch the full interview below.

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View the release notes for the upcoming version 2022.16.2.

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