Hundreds of Tesla owners have complained to the US regulator that the cars operating on the partially automated driving systems have suddenly stopped for no reason.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) said they are investigating the issue, which has been reported by 750 people, as the company’s founder Elon Musk said he has a “super bad feeling” about the economy and needs to cut 10% of jobs.
NHTSA asked Tesla to send all consumer and field reports about false braking, as well as reports on crashes, injuries, death and property damage claims.
It has also asked whether the company’s “Full Self Driving” and automatic emergency braking systems were active at the time of the incidents.
The agency said its investigation into phantom braking in Tesla’s Model 3 and Y started last February after getting 354 complaints.
The probe covers the 2021 and 2022 model years.
It comes as Musk sent a message on Thursday to staff, titled “pause all hiring worldwide” and came just 48 hours after the billionaire told staff to return to the office or leave Tesla.
According to the company’s annual SEC filing, almost 100,000 people were employed by Tesla and its subsidiaries at the end of 2021.
Sky News has contacted Tesla for comment.
Tesla’s share price fell nearly 5% in US pre-market trade on Friday and its Frankfurt listing was down 3.6%.
Its US Nasdaq futures turned negative and were trading 1% lower.
In recent weeks, Musk has warned about the risks of a recession, but his email ordering a hiring freeze and staff cuts were the most direct and high-profile message from the head of a carmaker.
Demand for Tesla cars have remained strong, but it has struggled to restart production in Shanghai after COVID enforced lockdowns.
Before Musk’s warning, Tesla had about 5,000 job postings on LinkedIn, from sales in Tokyo and engineers at its new Berlin Gigafactory to deep learning scientists in Palo Alto.
It had scheduled an online hiring event for Shanghai on 9 June on its WeChat channel.
On 1 June it was reported that Musk had told Tesla staff to stop working from home.
“Anyone who wishes to do remote work must be in the office for a minimum (and I mean minimum) of 40 hours per week or depart Tesla,” the chief executive said in the message to staff, which was circulating on social media.
While the authenticity of the memo has not been verified and the electric car company has yet to issue an official response to queries about it, Musk did reply to one Twitter user who asked him for “any additional comment to people who think coming into work is an antiquated concept?”
“They should pretend to work somewhere else,” the billionaire tycoon replied.
Musk would “review and approve” any cases where workers could not meet the minimum, according to the memo.