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.

Cybertruck to be waterproof and serve as a boat briefly, may also appear in Cyberpunk 2077

By Kevin Armstrong
Cybertruck may appear in Cyberpunk 2077 game
Cybertruck may appear in Cyberpunk 2077 game
Cyberpunk

Cybertruck deliveries will start next year, but if you can't wait that long, you may want to head for Night City. Cyberpunk 2077 has teased that the highly anticipated vehicle in the real world may appear in the popular video game. But, if that's not enough, Elon Musk announced another exciting and unique feature for the futuristic-looking truck - it will be waterproof.

Let's start with the floating Cybertruck, which should not be a shock to anyone following the Tesla CEO. He bought the Lotus Esprit that James Bond used to jump off a pier and transform into a submarine in The Spy Who Loved Me. He purchased the movie prop for just under $1 million in 2013 and told USA Today, "I was disappointed to learn that it can't actually transform. What I'm going to do is upgrade it with a Tesla electric powertrain and try to make it transform for real."

In 2016 he tweeted that the Model S "floats well enough to be a boat," but he did not recommend trying it. Now he has claimed the Cybertruck could be used as a boat — briefly. Musk tweeted: Cybertruck will be waterproof enough to serve briefly as a boat, so it can cross rivers, lakes & even seas that aren't too choppy.

Cybertruck may appear in Cyberpunk 2077 game
Cybertruck may appear in Cyberpunk 2077 game
Cyberpunk

In a later tweet, he gave some idea of the distance he has in mind: Needs be able to get from Starbase to South Padre Island, which requires crossing the channel.

Twitter user @Erdayastronaut shed some light on why Musk would be singling out that area and distance. The tweet reads: "One of SpaceX's biggest problems is attracting talent to work at Starbase, which is extremely remote. South Padre is an awesome place to live, but it's almost an hour drive to Starbase despite being only 5 miles from Starbase because of the shipping channel." A quick check of Google Maps demonstrates what the user is describing.

South Padre is only five minutes from Starbase if you cross the channel
South Padre is only five minutes from Starbase if you cross the channel
Google

Musk's tweet also caught the attention of the Washington State Department of Natural Resources. Officials there seem to be a little concerned about the wording. The official account tweeted: Our derelict vessel crews are begging you to understand that anything that "serves briefly as a boat" should not be used as a boat.

CD Projekt RED also noticed Musk's tweet, and the makers of Cyberpunk used the opportunity to show two concepts of the Cybertruck as it would appear in Night City. Musk and Cyberpunk have had an ongoing relationship for a few years. Most recently, he demonstrated the power of the onboard computer's gaming system by playing Cyberpunk in a Tesla. However, CD Projekt RED did not mention if the Cybertruck in Cyberpunk would float.

Cyberpunk 2077 will be playable in the new Model S

Tesla hints at 'Reverse Summon' being available this year

Future Feature
By Kevin Armstrong
Tesla now mentions 'Park Seek' or what we know as reverse summon on its website'
Tesla now mentions 'Park Seek' or what we know as reverse summon on its website
Tesla

Tesla's team of Autopilot engineers is validating significant advancements to Full Self Driving Beta, including parking lot improvements. While Smart Summon and Reverse Summon were not specifically mentioned during the 3.5-hour AI Day 2022 event, parking lots were discussed, and Elon Musk gave a timeline of when enhancements are expected.

Reverse Summon or 'Park Seek' as Tesla appears to be calling it, is the opposite of Smart Summon. Whereas Smart Summon drives to you from a parking spot, users who activate Reverse Summon would have their Tesla drop them off at a location, perhaps closest to the entrance of a mall, and then find a parking spot. This feature was described by Musk on July 1, 2020, when he gave it a two to a four-month timeline.

Ashok Elluswamy, Tesla’s director of the Autopilot program, started the FSD portion of AI Day, saying, “FSD beta software is quite capable of driving the car. It should be able to navigate from parking lot to parking lot, city street driving, stopping for traffic lights and stops signs, negotiating with objects at intersections, making turns and so on.”

Several team members described how FSD has advanced and soon will be an integrated stack, meaning one code base that includes everything the program needs to navigate the car in a parking lot or on a busy highway. Musk is currently using this new stack, “it works quite well for me, but we need to validate it in all kinds of weather, like heavy rain, snow, dust and make sure it is working better than the production stack across a wide range of environments.”

Paril Jain, the Manager of Autopilot Motion Planning, expanded on what else will be included in the integrated stack, “we do expect to also include the parking lot stack as a part of the FSD stack before the end of this year. So, that will basically bring us to you sitting in the car in the parking lot and drive till the end of the parking lot, at a parking spot, before the end of this year.”

It has been previously reported that Reverse Summon would have three different modes to find parking spots that the owner prefers. The methods would include closest to the entrance, nearby a cart return, and the end of the parking lot for those who like to avoid tight spots that cause door dings. Musk said that the integrated stack is on track for release before the end of the year and maybe as early as November.

Tesla has also updated it's website to reflect this news, although no timeframe is given. The Autopilot section of Tesla's site now has a section titled "To your Destination." The description reads "When you arrive at your destination, simply step out at the entrance and your car will enter park seek mode, automatically search for a spot and park itself. A tap on your phone summons it back to you."

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View the release notes for the upcoming version 2022.36.

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Take a look at features that Elon Musk has said will be coming soon.

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