A whistleblower from Tesla leaked 100 GB of data to the German outlet Handelsblatt with thousands of customer complaints raising serious concerns about the safety of Tesla’s Full Self-Driving (FSD) features.
The complaints, which were reported in the US, Europe and Asia, run from 2015 to March 2022. During this period Handelsblatt says Tesla customers have reported more than 2,400 self-acceleration problems and 1,500 braking problems, including 139 reports of “unintentional emergency braking” and 383 reports of “phantom stops” from false collision warnings.
Some of the incidents mentioned by Handelsblatt include descriptions of how cars “brake or accelerate suddenly and abruptly”. While some drivers regained control of their vehicle safely, Handelsblatt says others “ended up in a ditch, hit walls, or crashed into oncoming vehicles.”
The documents obtained by the outlet also outline Tesla’s policy in responding to the issues experienced by customers and suggest that Tesla likes to keep its vehicles’ data hidden. Here are some of the policies described by Handelsblatt (translated with Google Translate):
For each incident there are bullet points for the “technical review”. The employees who enter this review into the system regularly make it clear that the report is “for internal use only”. Each entry also states in bold that information, if any, may only be passed on “MONDALLY to the customer”.
“Do not copy and paste the report below into an email, text or leave it in a voicemail to the customer,” it said. Vehicle data may also not be released without permission. If, despite the advice, “engagement of a lawyer cannot be avoided”, this must be recorded.
According to a note from Handelsblatt editor-in-chief Sebastian Matthes, the outlet’s editor, sent Tesla several questions about the data received. Instead of answering them, Matthes says Tesla “demands the data be deleted and talked about data theft.” We still don’t know who provided it Handelsblatt with the leaked information, but Matthes notes that the outlet received it from “several informants”.
This is far from the first time concerns have been raised about Tesla’s FSD. Tesla’s FSD capability enables all of the features that come with Tesla’s Autopilot and Enhanced Autopilot features, including automatic lane changes, autosteering, autoparking, and more. Despite these concerns, Tesla made its FSD beta available to everyone in November last year.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration began investigating Tesla’s FSD software in January after Tesla CEO Elon Musk tweeted that the company would give users the option to turn off “steering wheel nag.” About a month later, the agency deemed the possibility a risk of accident, prompting Tesla to recall 362,758 cars equipped with FSD and interrupt FSD installations.