Model S crashes through wall of restaurant - cruise control issue???

Model S crashes through wall of restaurant - cruise control issue???


Last month (on the 29th, I believe) a woman drove her Model S through the wall of a restaurant. She was 71. Seems that most people have concluded that she must have stepped on the accelerator instead of the brake. However, I'm a little troubled that she may have inadvertently activated the cruise control. I've heard a couple times about how the Mercedes cruise control and wiper stalks are reversed and how some have experienced "unintended acceleration". Has anyone checked into this? Has Tesla?

I'm a HUGE Tesla fan (still awaiting delivery of my 40kWh - which I guess is now a 40kWh+ or 60kWh-) and hope that this is not the case. However, this needs to be investigated. I love the instantaneous acceleration of the Model S. I'm not sure I'd be such a huge fan if I got instantaneous acceleration when just wanted some grime off my windshield.

andrigtmiller | April 4, 2013

Even if she activated the cruise control, if she actually hit the break that would have disengaged the cruise control.

HenryT2 | April 4, 2013

I think that might be an unintended safety feature of creep. You are forced to step on the break whenever you are not in park. With the Tesla in 'non-creep mode', you could turn on the cruise control without having your foot on the brake and, if you weren't paying attention, go through the wall of, say a restaurant, before you knew what was going on.

Not saying this is what happened, just wondering if it could? And, if so, shouldn't there be an easy fix for it? Can't cruise control be disabled when the car is moving less than say 10mph?

portia | April 4, 2013

the cruise control can not be activated unless you are driving more than 20 mph, so I don't think it had anything to do with it.

riceuguy | April 4, 2013

+1 Portia; this was most likely a case of senioritis or a slipped foot!

andrigtmiller | April 4, 2013

Good point @portia. Also, from my use of the cruise control, it takes two steps to have it engage. First, you have to push in the stalk to turn it on and a the you have to push air up for it to actually set a speed. I don't see how she could have done that in this situation.

diegoPasadena | April 4, 2013

It does take a couple of steps to engage, but one thing I'd prefer would be for it to turn off when I leave the car. As it is, if I had cruise on when I park the car, it remains on when I get back in and start driving. Not set to the same limit (I think, but the light on the stalk is still engaged. It's easy enough to turn off, but I"d prefer it to be off, so I can make a fresh decision every time I start driving.
Not a biggie, though, and I think in no way related to the accident.

DouglasR | April 4, 2013

Youthful inexperience.

Tomas | April 4, 2013

I spent 10 minutes today on way home from work playing around with the cruise control, seeing if I could replicate the problem. No luck. I don't get it. Cruise control or no cruise control the old fashioned brake stops the car. It's a 71 year old old lady for gods sakes. It reminds of me of my 80 year old father in law who plowed into a garage while parking. He swore up and down that the car was screwed up. Yeah right. It was then that we took his car away. Shit happens, and the older you get, the more shit happens.
I say it driver error.

HenryT2 | April 4, 2013

Thank you for the insight everyone. I heard someone mention this issue on another thread and since I haven't taken delivery of my Model S yet, I had no way to check on this.

prash.saka | April 5, 2013

Portia is right about the minimum speed for cruise control.

But, diego, sometimes CC can be turned on by just one step. Consider that you have been driving with CC on, you reached your destination, and turned the car off. When you turn the car back on, CC remains on. In this case, if you accidentally pull the lever up CC is engaged in just one step. I wish the CC, too, is turned off when the car is turned off.

There is a more annoying thing about CC. For other cars, when CC is engaged and you'd like to increase the CC speed by 1 mph, you'd flick the CC lever up. Then the CC speed increased by 1 mph and stays there. With the Model S, it keeps increasing by 1 mph till you so something else (I am not sure what it is).

~ Prash.

riceuguy | April 5, 2013

While I think the minimum speed is a good safety feature, I do think that cruise control in the vast majority of cars is opt-in every time you start the car. That is, unless you turn it on, every time you start the car, it's off. Though less convenient, it is a safer approach. That said, when you're done with cruise control, turn it only takes a second!

jat | April 5, 2013

@prash.saka - no, it doesn't keep going up unless you hold it up. Just like in Mercedes cars (it is a Mercedes steering wheel after all), there are two levels of increasing/decreasing the speed with a bit of resistance between them. If you just barely move the stick up or down, it changes by 1mph. If you move it all the way, it changes by 5mph. Do people bother to read the manual, or do they just like to complain about stuff that they don't understand how it works?

Until pretty recently, in most cars cruise control was turned on/off by a physical toggle button, so it stayed in the same state as it was when you left it. Even other cars I have had with soft buttons for this still remembered the state it was in. There is a light on the stalk and the speed marker on the speedometer that tells you it is on, so it should be pretty clear it is still on.

prash.saka | April 5, 2013

@riceuguy, it does take only a second. I was talking about remembering to turn it off rather the work needed to turn it off :)

@jat, I guess I have to go back and read the manual. I never realized that there are two levels. That explains it. By the way, the previous car I occasionally drove is a 94 Lincoln Towncar. For that, when the car was turned off, so was CC. So, not sure what you meant by "until recently".

dborn | September 4, 2013

Merc cruise control is always on. To set you need to be doing at least 20, and then flick the lever up, which then sets the current speed. To speed up, you lift and hold the lever, to slow down you push down and hold. Don't know if the implementation on the Tesla is the same just because the lever is the same. Have not got my car. There is NO issue with the cruise control being permanently on. Works very well in fact and I use it around town frequently.

DTsea | September 4, 2013

@dborn you can turn the cruise completely off on the Model S. Plus the brake disengages it of course.

There is a little light on the cruise stalk that tells you if the system is enabled and an indicator on the speedometer that speed is set. If you push the stalk in CC is off, period.

gooshjkc | September 4, 2013

From the sound of it, it seems like it was driver error. Although, I'm not ruling out the cruise control theory. If I remember correctly when I had my Benz when you push up on the cruise stalk it would engage Recall or Resume and if you push down it Cancels. Therefore, if the lady accidentally push up the cruise stalk and it was on and the car was going over 20 mph, the car would go into cruise immediately. Now, the lady only had to press on the brake to cancel. This is all theories though. I still stand behind my original theory that it was driver error.

mkh1437 | September 4, 2013

If you do accidentally press the cruise stalk to Resume, the car does not accelerate wildly or immediately. I have found that if I had the cruise speed set at say 60, and I am just accelerating out of a stop, and I hit Resume at about 30 mph to get back up-to-speed, it accelerates MUCH slower than I normally would. I find it hard to believe you would lose control due to unexpectedly engaging the cruise.

Tâm | September 4, 2013

Wait! Look at the picture.

There were 4 occupants in the car. And now look at the nice 4 chairs on sidewalk at the police/fire department scene. There's only one occupied.

Oh yeah! Is that 71 grandma driver finishing the texting?

I hope accident-avoidance / auto-pilot feature will be available soon to prevent these mishaps.

SamO | September 4, 2013
jbunn | September 4, 2013

A driver did the same thing at the Tejon supercharger station a month and a half ago. Went forward, instead of reverse, hit the "gas", jumped the curb, through the shrubs, ran over the Tesla signage, over a rip-rap embankment and through a fence.

Looked like driver error, but we won't know until we hear from the driver.

jq5073 | September 4, 2013

71 year old drivers should be given cars that have an acceleration curve similar to their own response time.

GeekEV | September 4, 2013

+1 Interesting idea @jq5073! Maybe also be required to have adaptive cruise control that forces following at a minimum distance determined by your reflexes...

lolachampcar | September 4, 2013

I never really considered what happens when a rabid neck snapping mega launching P85 meets a pedal challenged driver. Wow, that is going to be an ugly event.

LK | September 4, 2013

Operator error... This should be a lesson to us all, take time to really know what we are driving.

DouglasR | September 4, 2013

@GeekEV, @jq5073 - Watch out, or you could be accused of "agism." I'm sure you are aware that the age group in the U.S. with the lowest accident rate is 65 to 74 years old:

I don't think it's a matter of reaction time. The brake and accelerator on the Model S are close together and at the same level. Many people have complained about hitting both at the same time. If your foot lands a little too far to the left, you will accelerate, not stop.

justineet | September 4, 2013

If mistake with cruise control is the issue, maybe a simple modification might do the engage the cruise control, need to tap on the handle twice instead once to ensure intentional disengage cruise control, keep it as it is...just one tap on the handle...

Brian H | September 4, 2013

DouglasR | September 4, 2013
If your foot lands a little too far to the left, you will accelerate, not stop.

... to the right. I assure you.

DouglasR | September 4, 2013

I meant the other left.

jq5073 | September 4, 2013

@DouglasR -- Sure 'nuff. You can remove the text "71 year old" and my statement still stands.

Driving is serious business. You're hurdling along a crowded road in a machine weighing 2,000 to 5,000 lbs, merely feet away form other machines doing the same. With drivers of varying levels of ability, reaction time, experience, and attention. Statistics have shown that when any of those are reduced (teen drivers, texting, under the influence of drugs / alcohol, distracting music or passengers, and yes, age), then the accident rates tend to climb.

My guess is simply that after some age (65? 70? 75?), reaction time goes down and they may be ill-equipped to handle a car that has the capability to put them into a situation they can't quickly recover from. And perhaps, because of this, they should be tested more often. Driving tests don't usually cover accident physical attributes beneficial to accident prevention -- they normally cover things like rules of the road.

lolachampcar | September 4, 2013

I can assure you the older I've gotten the slower I've become. Put differently, the old I get the faster I was :)

Iowa92x | September 4, 2013


Brian H | September 4, 2013

No way she was pointed at the restaurant doing 20+; she was parking and goosed it.

DouglasR | September 4, 2013

@jq5073 - I'm willing to accept that, after a certain age average reaction time diminishes (although plenty of old folks are quicker than many youngsters). But there may be other factors that improve with age, for example judgment, prudence, etc. Which may be why the number of accidents per licensed driver for those in the 65-74 year age bracket is HALF of that for those in the 35-44 year age bracket (4 per 100 compared to 8 per hundred). So yes, maybe we should all be tested -- not just those over a certain age -- but maybe the test should include things like how fast we drive and what risks we take, as well as how quick our reaction time is.

Captain_Zap | September 4, 2013

Does anyone have a link to a news article about this?

Captain_Zap | September 4, 2013

The photo in this thread is from last March at least. I'm starting to wonder about this story. The story from last March involved a 71 year old woman too.


Captain_Zap | September 4, 2013

I just noticed that this thread was an old thread that was resurrected. The post that bumped the thread made it seem like a current topic.

No wonder I thought I was having a deja vu moment.

Tâm | September 4, 2013

What? This old article has 9 lives?

From the other forum, someone mentioned about knitting :)

You mean, if you are 71 years old, Don't knit and drive?

Brian H | September 4, 2013

Older folk take more into account, so it takes longer to process. And helps avoid adventurous emergencies!

DouglasR | September 5, 2013

Actually, we old folks like to knit our text messages.

ye | September 6, 2013

The accident data that DouglasR linked to doesn't account for any differences in the number of miles driven by people of different ages. It's possible that 70-year-olds simply drive less than 40-year-olds, and that this is the reason why they crash less.

AmpedRealtor | September 6, 2013

No doubt this driver could have used a set of parking sensors... :) | September 6, 2013


petero | September 6, 2013

Accidents happen and breaking old habits is not automatic.

I have enjoyed my ‘S’ for 8 months (9K miles). On two parking occasions, I have inadvertently pushed up or down on the shifter rather than depressing the chrome, parking button. When I took my foot off the brake the car creeped forward. I would wager our ‘young’ lady did this and then jammed on the accelerator rather than the brake pedal. I don’t buy the cruise control argument at all.

Old habits are hard to break and many of us ‘mature’ drivers remember when column shifters needed to pushed up on the lever from drive in to park.

P.S. Remember, you are getting older not younger … be kind.

petero | September 6, 2013

oops. Should read ..."breaking an old habit is not automatic."

TGriffin | September 6, 2013

Regardless of her misfortune, I wish the cruise control were located somewhere else and the turn signal a little higher near the cruise control location. I still find myself bumping the cruise for turn signals... Doesn’t seem like much though went into the design of their prospective locations...

Maybe Tesla with revise and make a modification offering or something aftermarket will develop...

For now I am just retraining myself each time I get into my Tesla after driving something else...

Brian H | September 7, 2013

Mercedes levers, from their parts bin. Hold the wheel at 9&3 and your hands will be placed as intended.