US auto safety regulators have launched a new investigation into Tesla, this time in response to complaints that its vehicles can suddenly stop on the road for no apparent reason.

US auto safety regulators have launched a new investigation into Tesla, this time in response to complaints that its vehicles can suddenly stop on the road for no apparent reason.

The government says it has received 354 complaints from Tesla Model 3 and Y owners in the last nine months about “phantom braking.” The investigation is expected to cover 416,000 vehicles from the model years 2021 and 2022.

There were no reported crashes or injuries.

The vehicles are outfitted with driver-assist features that are partially automated, such as adaptive cruise control and “Autopilot,” which allows them to automatically brake and steer within their lanes.

According to documents posted by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration on Thursday, the vehicles can unexpectedly brake at highway speeds.

Many owners who filed complaints expressed concern about a rear-end collision on a freeway.

The investigation is part of the agency’s ongoing enforcement efforts, which also include Autopilot and “Full Self-Driving” software. Despite their names, neither feature is capable of driving the vehicles without human supervision.

It is the fourth formal investigation into the Texas automaker in the last three years, and the NHTSA has been supervising 15 Tesla recalls since January 2021. Furthermore, since 2016, the agency has dispatched investigators to at least 33 crashes involving Teslas equipped with driver-assist systems, in which 11 people were killed.

In one of the complaints, a Tesla owner from Austin, Texas, stated that a Model Y on Autopilot brakes repeatedly on two-lane roads and freeways for no apparent reason.

Elon Musk, the CEO of Tesla, has been fighting with US and California government agencies for years, most notably the NHTSA and the Securities and Exchange Commission.

Musk’s lawyers accused the SEC of harassing him with investigations and subpoenas over his Twitter posts in a letter sent to a federal judge in Manhattan early Thursday. Musk and Tesla agreed to pay $20 million in civil fines in 2018 in response to Musk’s tweets about having enough money to take the company private at $420 per share. The funding was not secured, and the company remains publicly traded. The settlement specified governance changes, including Musk’s ouster as board chairman, as well approval of Musk’s tweets.

Shapiro wonders why, more than three years after the settlement, the SEC has yet to distribute the $40 million in fines to Tesla shareholders.

Michael Brooks, acting executive director of the nonprofit Center for Auto Safety, said the NHTSA’s enforcement actions against Tesla are encouraging “after years of turning the other way.” However, he claims that the company continues to release software onto US roads that has not been tested to ensure its safety. “A piecemeal investigation of each problem that arises does not address the larger issue in Tesla’s safety culture — the company’s continued willingness to beta test its technology on the American public while misrepresenting the capabilities of its vehicles,” Brooks wrote in an email Thursday. On February 2, the Washington Post reported a surge in phantom braking complaints from Tesla owners.

Other recent Tesla recalls included vehicles equipped with “Full Self-Driving” technology that were programmed to run stop signs at slow speeds, heating systems that don’t clear windshields quickly enough, seat belt chimes that don’t sound to warn drivers who aren’t buckled up, and a feature that allows movies to play on touch screens while cars are being driven. These problems were supposed to be resolved with online software updates.

The NHTSA announced an investigation into Teslas on Autopilot failing to stop for emergency vehicles parked on roadways in August. This investigation covers a dozen crashes in which one person was killed and 17 others were injured.

The investigation on Thursday comes after Tesla recalled nearly 12,000 vehicles in October for a similar phantom braking issue. The company issued an online software update to correct a bug in its more advanced “Full Self-Driving” software.

In late September, Tesla released a software update designed to improve detection of emergency vehicle lights in low-light conditions.

On public roads, a select group of Tesla drivers has been beta testing the “Full Self-Driving” software. The NHTSA has also requested information about the testing, including a Tesla requirement that testers not reveal any information.