A Greek engineer and accident investigator has filed a petition to the US authorities demanding a recall of all Tesla vehicles due to a technical fault.
Costas Lakafossis, who is based in Athens, is petitioning the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) to recall all 1.6 million Teslas over their ability to shift from Drive to Reverse without touching the brake pedal.
“I am not turning against Tesla. I just wanted to highlight the dangerous deficiency of vehicles that can cost lives. I felt I had the responsibility to alert the US authorities,” he tells Greek Reporter.
The Greek scientist, who is also involved in the investigation of the deadly train collision at Tempi, says that he began looking at the Tesla deficiency when a Tesla driver lost control of his vehicle in Athens as he was attempting to park outside his office. Instead of the car braking, it inexplicably accelerated, smashing against other cars and a wall.
“I watched the video from a security camera. It was a horrifying accident. The driver felt betrayed by his smart car.”
Starting his investigation he came across a video of a similar accident, involving a Tesla in China. Two people were killed in that particular case. He says similar accidents happened in France and South Korea.
Recall petition due to Tesla’s potentially dangerous ‘party trick’
In a lengthy technical document submitted by Lakafossis, Tesla is accused of introducing “special features” that encourage sudden unintended acceleration (SUA) events that have led to accidents and injuries.
“One such ‘special feature’ is the ability of the car to stop and shift into reverse gear when the driver is ready to park, without the requirement of an actual brake pedal activation,” says Lakafossis. “There is no practical benefit for this potentially dangerous ‘party trick’.”
In the petition, Lakafossis points out that it has been known since the 1980s that the Brake Transmission Shift Interlock (BTSI) feature reduces instances of sudden unintended acceleration in vehicles with automatic transmissions. The feature has also been required in new vehicles since 2010.
“After proactively solving the problem of SUA accidents in the 1980s, today it seems that we are moving in the opposite direction, allowing a driver to select reverse gear while still driving forward without asking for a brake pedal application(!), actively encouraging drivers to enjoy ‘feet-off automatic braking and parking’,” Lakafossis says.
Greek engineer says the removal of both feet from the Tesla pedals is dangerous
The engineer claims that the removal of both feet from the pedals is a major factor contributing to the increased risk of pedal misapplication errors, and points to a number of accidents in documents submitted to NHTSA.
Ultimately, Lakafossis recommends disallowing the current feature and requiring drivers to press the brake pedal before shifting from Drive to Reverse in Teslas. He suggests that the easiest way to make this change is through a software update.
“As an immediate measure to enhance road safety, I hereby ask you to grant the petition to recall all Tesla cars in order to add a software interlock to their control system, requiring the driver to press the brake pedal before allowing the car to fully stop and reverse gear to engage,” wrote Lakafossis in the petition.
“Further measures concerning the stochastic nature of automatic braking should also be considered, as it may encourage the occasional complete removal of the driver’s feet from the pedals, which has been found to be a necessary condition of all types of pedal misapplication errors.”
NHTSA says it will now evaluate Lakafossis’ allegations and consider them against its own field data to determine if the petition should be granted or denied. If the petition is granted, it will open a defect investigation, which may lead to a recall, Carscoops says.