NHTSA clears Tesla of unintended acceleration claims

Driver error in the form of pedal misapplication to blame in all cases examined, agency said

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has denied a petition for the agency to launch a review of 662,000 Tesla vehicles for sudden unintended acceleration (SUA), citing a lack of evidence that a technical defect existed to support the claim.

NHTSA said it had determined that driver error in the form of pedal misapplication was to blame in all of the cases it examined, using data from allegedly affected cars.

The petition was submitted in 2019 by investor Brian Sparks, who at the time held a short position in Tesla stock, after hearing from someone who experienced the issue, according to the Associated Press.

Sparks and NHTSA identified 246 possible cases of the issue.

“The theory provided of a potential electronic cause of SUA in the subject vehicles is based upon inaccurate assumptions about system design and log data,” NHTSA wrote in its report.


Sparks told The Verge that “the rate of unintended acceleration reports remains particularly high in Tesla-made vehicles compared to other vehicles, however, I trust the institutions of government. If NHTSA says there is no defect then I believe them. I thank NHTSA for evaluating the SUA allegations.”

NHTSA also concluded that there was nothing about the design of the pedals that made it more likely for someone to mistakenly hit the accelerator, but left the door open to “taking further action if warranted, or the potential for a future finding that a safety-related defect exists based upon additional information the Agency may receive.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report