The German-language newspaper Handelsblatt said it received 100GB of data from “several informants” within Tesla, showing how the company received thousands of complaints about its Autopilot features over the past years. According to Jalopnik, the collection contained 23,000 internal files, with complaints from as far back as 2015 and as recent as March 2022. Within that time period, the automaker reportedly received 2,400 reports about self-acceleration issues and 1,500 cases about braking function problems. The latter included 139 complaints about unintentional emergency braking and 383 about phantom stops from false collision warnings.
Further, the files reportedly included more than 1,000 crash reports and a table of 3,000 incidents wherein drivers expressed safety concerns about Tesla’s driver assistance system. While most of the reported incidents happened in the US, some of the complaints came from owners in Europe and Asia. Handelsblatt said it contacted dozens of customers from the files to confirm their reports, and some were even able to share videos with the publication.
Aside from containing details on thousands of safety complaints, the files reportedly included instructions for employees on how to communicate with customers. Apparently, they’re told not to copy and paste incident reports on email or text messages and not to leave the information as voicemail recording. They can only verbally pass on the information to customers.
In a letter explaining why the publication decided to publish information from the Tesla files, Handelsblatt editor-in-chief Sebastian Matthes said a 12-person team sifted through and evaluated the files over six months. “The data paints the picture of an electric car pioneer who seems to have far greater technological problems than previously known. With its Autopilot, for example. The Tesla files contain thousands of reports about complications with the driver assistance systems. Complaints of Tesla vehicles suddenly braking at full speed. Or accelerate suddenly,” he wrote.
He said his team sent Tesla a comprehensive list of questions, but the automaker chose not to answer them. Instead, Joseph Alm, Tesla’s Managing Counsel for Litigation, told the publication that the data was stolen and that media reporting of illegally obtained information is not allowed absent exceptional circumstances. Alm also said in his response (via Electrek) to the publication that the company believes a “disgruntled ex-employee” used his access as a service technician to “exfiltrate information in violation of his signed non-disclosure agreement” before he left the company. Tesla intends to sue that ex-employee for his “theft of Tesla confidential information and employees’ personal data.”