On March 1, Tesla’s forensic investigation report on the fatal Model Y crash in Chaozhou, eastern Guangdong province, was released. The accident happened on November 13 last year, leaving one dead. The driver survived with injuries and later gave an interview where he claimed he never touched an accelerator pedal during the incident.
Model Y driver said he wanted to brake and park the car, but the EV suddenly accelerated and continued driving at high speed for over 2km.
“Never,” the driver replied when asked if he stepped on the accelerator pedal when the car started speeding. “I had kept my foot on the brake pedal all along until I was on the verge of colliding with the tricycle,” he added.
Tesla’s report released
Four months later, Tesla concluded the EDR (Event Data Recorder) report on the accident, which was revealed by Xiao Te, founder of the largest unofficial Tesla community in China. The EDR report shows that the accident involved a Model Y with around 20,000 kilometers on it, and the driver was wearing a seatbelt at the time of the accident.
Five seconds before the accident, the vehicle was moving at a speed of 164km/h, and the angle of the steering wheel changed by 25 degrees. The body stabilization system was involved, and the speed slightly decreased to 159km/h. After the steering wheel stabilized, the speed increased somewhat, and at the time of impact, the vehicle’s speed was 163km/h.
The most important thing to note from the report is that the accelerator pedal was always at 100%, and the brake pedal was never pressed. This matches the video from the wild drive, which shows no brake lights. Also, Autopilot wasn’t involved. Therefore, according to the EDR data, the cause of the accident is simply pressing the wrong pedal.
The police investigation is not concluded yet; the only information provided was that the driver wasn’t influenced by alcohol or drugs.
Acceleration pedal problems are pretty common
Previously, there have been accusations of malfunctioning brake pedals in Tesla cars in China. An angry Tesla owner even staged a protest at the Shanghai Auto Show, claiming that her accident was caused by brake failure. However, Tesla responded to these complaints by stating that their vehicles do not have any unintended acceleration.
These critics are not restricted to China, with many customers in the US also expressing concerns. The US National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) investigated these complaints. It determined that the incidents of sudden unintended acceleration in Tesla cars were not caused by any design flaw but rather by driver error. The NHTSA emphasizes the need for drivers to be cautious and aware of pedal error, which is responsible for around 16,000 crashes annually in the US.
However, this didn’t prevent many Chinese media from referring to the accidents as ‘brake failure’ or ‘pedal acceleration’ accidents and Weibo users accusing Tesla of selling dangerous cars. Tesla previously took legal action against some social media users claiming brake failure. In one case, the driver admitted he staged the video and apologized to the US automaker.
I see coverage of Tesla accidents in China as a barometer of Chinese sentiment towards the US automaker. In 2021, even the most minor accident had deep coverage. Many local media referred to it explicitly as a ‘brake failure incident.’ Analytics predicted that the honeymoon for Tesla in China was over or even that the government didn’t need Tesla anymore.
However, it’s a different story in late 2022 and early 2023. Have you heard of another Tesla MY fatal accident in Taizhou in November 2022, leaving two dead? Or about a Model 3 fatal crash that killed one in Ruian city this February? Probably not; they didn’t go viral and, based on our analytics, didn’t get much engagement. It seems that blaming Tesla for brake failure in China is becoming out of fashion, and this is rather good news for the Shanghai Gigafactory owner. The honeymoon might be over, but marriage continues.