Phantom braking is a normal part of using a self-driving vehicle. At least, that’s the excuse Tesla owners make when their car randomly brakes in Autopilot mode. But over the last few weeks, Tesla owners have experienced a dramatic increase in phantom braking events, leading to tons of new complaints on social media, forums, and the NHTSA website.
When self-driving cars experience phantom braking, it’s usually because their computers aren’t smart enough to differentiate safe objects from hazards. The car thinks it’s about to hit something, so it triggers the brakes. Some instances of phantom braking are sudden and aggressive, leaving drivers to quickly react if they want to avoid an accident.
It seems that Tesla’s Autopilot feature has gotten worse at identifying road hazards, which would explain the increase in phantom braking. Many Tesla owners blame the uptick in phantom braking on recent software updates, which disable the radar component of Tesla’s Autopilot system for a fully vision-based Autopilot.
Here’s a complaint from the NHTSA website:
While driving using cruise control the vehicle will occasionally brake suddenly for unknown reasons. In one instance I was worried that the car following me would either hit my car or be forced to take other action possibly causing an accident. When I contacted Tesla regarding my concern they said something about the software program evolving…no fix available. The cruise control system is Dangerous.
Of course, this news comes just one week after Tesla was forced to recall its “full self-driving” beta program. The self-driving beta software reportedly made cars act erratically, and phantom braking was a common complaint.
Tesla has not commented on its Autopilot problem, but Elon Musk described the recent self-driving beta fiasco as a “software” problem. It’s possible that both of these problems are linked to Tesla’s new vision-based Autopilot system.