Tesla’s Autopilot driver assistance system has problems that are more extensive than previously known, according to leaked data reviewed by German newspaper the Handelsblatt. The paper claims to have been given 23,000 files, totalling 100GB, that include personal data from Tesla employees and customer complaints, as well as descriptions of more than a thousand accidents. The files contain more than 2,400 complaints about self-acceleration, with more than 1,500 relating to braking functions. They document 139 instances of unwanted emergency braking and 383 incidents of phantom braking after false collision warnings.
The oldest complaints contained in the data reportedly date from 2015, with the most recent from March this year. Most of the incidents recorded took place in the US, but there are also complaints from Europe and Asia, including many from Tesla drivers in Germany. According to the Handelsblatt, it has been in contact with some customers in several countries, who have verified the information included in the Tesla files.
Fatal accidents involving Tesla’s Autopilot system have brought the system into court proceedings in the past. In previous damage claims in the US, plaintiffs accused the system of being unreliable, while Tesla maintained that drivers were required to stay in control at all times. Recent figures show that the US National Highway Traffic Safety Administration was informed of 367 accidents involving a car with an Autopilot system activated between July 2021 and May 2022. More than 70% of these involved a Tesla.
Before making the information public, the Handelsblatt spent six months investigating the data, which included a preliminary report on the Cybertruck, Tesla’s upcoming electric pickup. In the course of its investigation, the paper contacted the Brandenburg data protection officer Dagmar Hartge, who confirmed to the newspaper that sensitive data had insufficient access restrictions, meaning it could be widely accessible.
Tesla’s legal department is said to have demanded that the Handelsblatt not publish any information from the leaked data. However, after checking carefully and seeking external advice, the newspaper went ahead with its report. The authenticity of the data was authenticated by Germany’s Fraunhofer Institute for Secure Information Technology. Tesla owners can check the Handelsblatt’s website to see if their data is included in the leaked files.