Unintended Acceleration

Unintended Acceleration

A few hours ago my dad was pulling my mum's Model X100D into the garage. I was standing in the driveway behind the car, watching him slowly inch into the garage and then momentarily stop. I had the flash of a thought while I was standing there, "Oh my gosh, wouldn't it be awful if he crashed into the garage?"

In a split second, it happened. I watched in horror as I saw the Model X lurch forward, hitting the inside door leading to the laundry room and knocking it off its hinges onto the ground. The car bashed into the inside wall of the garage knocking down drywall and stucco. Later closer inspection revealed that some of the supporting framing of the house had been knocked out of place in the garage wall, the inside laundry room and an adjacent ground floor bedroom. The impact was violent. Curiously, the car didn't stay impaled into the house structure, but rather it seemed to bounce back by almost two feet, almost to the point where car would normally be stopped.

My 87-year old dad must have meant to press the brake pedal but pressed the accelerator pedal instead, with severely damaging results.

All the front and side airbags deployed. There was a lot of drywall dust, some fluid leaking, probably from the Model X cooling system, and the entire front bumper and right front fender were heavily damaged.

I couldn't see my dad because he was covered up by the airbags. In a panic I couldn't open the front passenger door, so I opened the rear falcon wing door instead. I found him inside, dazed and struck dumb, but otherwise unhurt. We brought my dad to Urgent Care and apart from being very shaken, he's physically okay.

Tesla Roadside Assistance were completely wonderful in contacting me within a half hour of this accident because they were notified that the Model X had been involved in a crash. One tow truck company came to attempt to take the car away but couldn't move it because by the time they arrived, the electrical system had shut down completely and there was no way of getting the car into Tow Mode, or Neutral.

Tesla Roadside have sent another tow truck company to transport the vehicle to my chosen auto body shop which doesn't open until Monday. I'm hoping my USAA will cover both tow companies showing up, even though only one will be successful in moving the car, storing it over the weekend and transporting it yet again to the auto body shop on Monday morning. Otherwise all of this will be on my own dime.

Without at all meaning to be snarky, a neighbour asked, "Aren't these cars supposed to brake and stop on their own?" I gave some lame, mumbled reply about Automatic
Emergency Braking being available, but not working in this instance of unintended acceleration.

I still don’t have the answer to that question. All I know is that Automatic Emergency Braking does not work, and is not designed to work, when you’re already pretty much stopped, and then inadvertently step on the accelerator.

Please take note, everyone, so as to avoid this expensive disaster to both my parents’ car and house.

Triggerplz | 07. april 2018

I'm glad no one was seriously hurt the Car and house can be repaired

avesraggiana | 07. april 2018

Thank you, @Triggerplz. We're very relieved too that no one was hurt. It'll take quite some time but in the end, everything will be repaired.

David N | 07. april 2018

I am glad to hear your Dad is ok.

burdogg | 07. april 2018

@avesraggiana - so sorry to hear that. It is true that all the other things can be repaired, so super glad your dad is alright - but it still does not make it very much fun to deal with. Hope you get it all squared away and back to normal in a timely fashion.

I have often thought of this, my garage is detached, but if you were to go through the back end of it (there is a lot of room though, so hopefully could catch what you did fast enough) there isn't much room before you are going down the backside of a very steep mountain!

lilbean | 07. april 2018

Sorry to hear this happened. I'm glad you guys are ok.

Bighorn | 07. april 2018

Sorry for the accident. Sounds like it’s time for “the talk.” Never easy.

avesraggiana | 07. april 2018

@David N, @burdogg, @lilbean, @Bighorn

Thank you, all, for your kind thoughts and expressions of concern. I really appreciate it. Even now, I'm still pretty shaken up by the whole thing. Especially when I think that it's my mum's habit to watch my dad from out front as he pulls the car in, guiding him closely so that he brings the car in far enough. On this occasion she just happened to be in another part of the house. I shudder to think that this could have turned out so differently.

Thankfully for me, my dad's self-regulating as far as driving is concerned. He's been pretty good about setting his own limits as he gets older. If anything, he's the one having "the talk" with the rest of us already. Good for him.

Thank you again, gang. I really appreciate you all.

Ohmster | 07. april 2018

Perils of aging parents. I worry constantly about my 82 year old father driving daily. Unlike yours, mine is the last thing from self-regulating.

Good luck with everything. Many things in life can’t be remedied. Glad that didn’t apply here.

‘17 S75 & X75D: Uncorked AP2.5 18.10/12. Grin on!

lilbean | 07. april 2018

It’s sad to see our parents aging. They used to be young like us. My parents are in their early 70s and my mom already quit driving.
True story: One day, I was driving on the freeway and a car was merging onto the freeway. The car cut me off and I had to slam on my brakes. I was honking at the driver. I couldn’t believe how oblivious he was. I was ready to wave my fist at the car. I managed to get around the car and who do I see in the car? My parents! They were waving and thought I was honking at them to say hi. I’m sure glad I stopped giving the bird to drivers. :)

avesraggiana | 07. april 2018

@lilbean. Oh, man. That surely was one of your "moments." Great story! Thanks, lilbean. Made me smile.

lilbean | 07. april 2018

@avesraggiana, I’m glad. :) Enjoy every moment with your parents. Our time with them is precious. I’m glad they are ok. My Dad doesn’t want to test drive the Teslas.

Silver2K | 08. april 2018


WOW! so sorry to hear about this, but happy to know your Dad is doing well.

Bighorn | 08. april 2018

I was going to say if there were any debate about whether he had his foot on the proper pedal, you were in a prime location to see the brake lights.

bob | 08. april 2018

Two words: Chill Mode.

avesraggiana | 08. april 2018

@Bighorn. That's the thing Bighorn, I really can't remember that instant. All I remember was myself yelling, "Oh, God, Papa!!!" Then after the impact, the emergency warning flashers flashing, deployed airbags, and clouds of drywall dust. I really can't remember whether the brake lights were lit.

I'm sure Tesla will be able to help determine what happened. They were completely remarkable. They called me first, twenty minutes after the accident, before I had had a chance to call anybody except a close family member.

avesraggiana | 08. april 2018

@bob. That's right. Chill mode and Creep mode were not set. When the car, or its replacement, comes back from the body shop months from now, I'll definitely have those modes set.

lilbean | 08. april 2018

Do you think it’s safer to back into the garage instead? Does it accelerate slower in reverse? I think a Model 3 may be a better car for your parents.

Vawlkus | 08. april 2018

Really glad that everyone is unhurt from this. As you say, it coulda been worse.

Bighorn | 08. april 2018

Not surprised that whether the brake lights illuminated wasn't your foremost observation. I trust your mom will never wave him in again!

jerryk | 08. april 2018

Bummer. Doesn't sound like that will buff out.

Starlifter | 08. april 2018

certainly not trying to engage in 20/20 hindsight - and I'm glad no one was seriously injured. But yes, creep mode has been set for us since about two weeks after we picked up the model X. the accelerator is so responsive and I was sure sooner or later someone's foot would twitch trying to inch it forward and launch into warp speed.

as I sit here musing at the keyboard - in addition to chill mode, I wonder if Tesla has ever considered another setting beyond 'Drive' that would limit the car to 3-5 mph top speed. would be a useful selection in some cases. garage parking and bumper to bumper traffic in the city comes to mind.....

avesraggiana | 08. april 2018

@lilbean. Thoughtful suugestions. I'm suspecting backing in is beyond my parents' abilities at this point, especially with another car already in the garage. My dad is 87, and my mum, 77. I'm thinking to suggest that they "summon" the car in, in future. They both use the summon feature to back out either of their Teslas out of the garage.

Not too long ago, we sat in a Model 3 at our local showroom. While its compact dimensions would make it less cumbersome for daily driving, my parents were loath to give up the ease of entry and exit that mum's Model X affords them.

avesraggiana | 08. april 2018

@Bighorn. Got that right. Everyone's already given her a very stern warning to stay away from the front of any vehicle being pulled into the garage.

@jerryk. Sadly, no. I'm thinking three months before we get mum's Model X back. Superficially, the damage looked horrific but I'm hoping it's mostly cosmetic. It'll be an even more expensive repair for sure, than the $20,000 in damage and repair that my dad's Model S suffered from a low speed rear ending. Our car was in repairs for 46 days. On the other hand, a neighbor with a background in residential construction thinks that the two-storey house, even with the repair of load bearing walls, should take about a week. I'd be very happy if that turns out to be the case.

lilbean | 08. april 2018

@avesraggiana You are right. The Model 3 is pretty low. The X would be easier for them. I back the car in for my dear hubby. He doesn’t need me to but I’m better at it, I think. Actually he gets mad at me for insisting I do it.

avesraggiana | 08. april 2018

*Dad's car, was in repair...*

jerryk | 09. april 2018


The most important thing is everyone is OK. Cars can be repaired much easier than people.

Regarding the M3, I am just 60 and I don't think I will every own a lower slung car again. I would not want to give up the easy of entry and upright driving position of a SUV/CrossOver vehicle. We have 2 - 3 series BMW sedans I almost never drive. I almost always drive the X3.

lilbean | 10. april 2018

@avesraggiana Is chill mode available in your X?

Blueskies | 10. april 2018

There should be something slower than chill mode; snail or slug mode for parking in garages, and one between that and existing chill and range modes if not for more gentle driving for hypermiling when running low on charge.

avesraggiana | 10. april 2018

@lilbean. It absolutely is, as of a few updates ago when we all got it. Neither I or my parents ever thought to use it, we enjoyed the immediate acceleration of the Teslas so much.

After last weekend's sobering experience, we've since activated CHILL MODE on the unharmed Tesla still with my parents, and we'll do the same when mum's Model X comes back, whenever that will be.

lilbean | 10. april 2018

That’s great, avesraggiana. I think that will solve the problem nicely. :) I haven’t done an update in months so I don’t have that mode.

burdogg | 10. april 2018

I actually think Creep would be the best solution (I personally hate it :) But for them and parking, this allows them to actually use the brake the hole time, and never move on to the pedal. ie, as you start to get into the garage, move to the brake, brake a little, let off, brake, let off, etc. and let creep slowly pull you into the spot you want, never having to even think about using the accelerator.

burdogg | 10. april 2018

hole? What was that, whole! Man I look foolish :)

Tropopause | 10. april 2018

lilbean- update your X, already!

lilbean | 10. april 2018

I know. It’s been working so well. I didn’t want to mess anything up. Tomorrow, it’s going in for the second annual service. Tesla will update it then.

senoto | 12. april 2018

The other day I was in the parking lot of a local funeral home visiting a friend that had passed. The Parking lot attended told me to pull out of the space and back in so that I might follow the procession. I pulled out and then put the car in reverse to begin backing in. I am an experienced driver and we all know we press the pedal with care when we start backing up. All of a sudden the car surged and took off. The wheel was turned so to back in which made the car turn in a semi circle. At the same time I am hitting the brake with no success and trying so hard to get control of spinning steering wheel that afterwards my right arm was aching from the force of the wheel. When the car finally stopped it was because it rammed three cars. It hit with such force that I really only hit one parked car and that car smashed into two more. Thank God, no one was hurt. I had no injury to myself, even though it backed into these cars and two were totaled. Aside from being so terribly shaken, I relive this moment constantly. I understand there is a computer in the car that will know if it was a human or technical error. I've been told that Tesla will not be forthright with this information because of their possible liability. The car is two years old and we did have significant problems with the doors opening up randomly in the beginning. That seems to be fine now, but I can't help but wonder if there is something that can trigger these types of episodes. I wonder if anyone else has had an experience like this.

Tropopause | 12. april 2018

Never mistake the accelerator pedal for the brake pedal at a funeral (or anywhere else for that matter.) As the alcohol companies say, “Drive responsibly.”

senoto | 12. april 2018

I have driven responsibly my whole life, and I don't drink. I would like to find out whether it was a tech error or a human error. Either way, I'm getting rid of this car. Hope it doesn't happen to you.

Tropopause | 12. april 2018

Human error. Wrong peddle.

lilbean | 12. april 2018

Here is a great podcast about this subject:

Model_D | 12. april 2018

My son and I were going through all of the menus on the Model 3. He asked about creep mode. I explained what it did. I then said that anyone that has driven an automatic transmission ICE for more than 1 year should use this mode. I do because I don’t have to use the same pedal to decelerate and accelerate at parking lot speeds and unlearn years of experience using one pedal only to decelerate. I told him when he drives he should use creep off since his brain can learn the modern way to drive. I know creep off is better, but our brain is an incredible thing but I don’t trust mine to learn something that important.

johnse | 13. april 2018

I see no reason to presume “creep off” is the “modern” way, or any better than creep on. I grew up on standard transmissions and am perfectly familiar with clutches and how to use them. Creep is an artifact of automatic transmissions, and the implementation in ICEs is wasteful in that the power is always applied and only the mechanical brake is holding you from moving. However, in a modern EV like our Tesla’s, there is no power applied while the brake is pressed.

When you release the brake, then a small amount of power is applied. Using creep allows you to keep your foot on the brake pedal allowing you to react immediately to an unexpected problem.

With creep off you must have your foot on the accelerator to move. At the slow speeds (in current Teslas) removing your foot from the accelerator will not stop the car, you will need to use the brake by moving your foot to the brake pedal. This is slower and has the chance for confusion.

lilbean | 13. april 2018

The other side of the argument is that when the brake is used to accelerate slowly, as in creep mode, a driver may believe they are stepping on the brake when they are accelerating. The car moves forward so they stomp on the brake to stop but are actually on the accelerator. When you designate each pedal, as when creep is off, there is no confusion. You know that the right pedal is always to go and the left pedal is to stop.

Silver2K | 13. april 2018

Creep mode is best for folks that have never driven a car that has 100% torque instantly. If the car is not rolling freely as they are used to then they may hit the accelerator too hard and cause this situation to happen. When adding older age and slower reflexes and/or muscle twitchiness issues, it makes senses to use creep mode.

brschram | 13. april 2018

Thanks to all who have contributed to this post, I'm grateful no one in the OP's family was injured.

I took delivery of Joule (X100D) two weeks ago today and have been driving without creep mode enabled. To be honest, I think about it every time I'm in a situation where I need to move either direction in very slowly, so far so good.

Having said that, I am going to turn creep on. There will come a time when someone else wants to drive the X (probably the other ex.) and there is enough new stuff going on that trying to describe that unfamiliar behavior seems like something best avoided. I still have an ICE which always creeps (IIRC, it hasn't moved for weeks) so consistency is probably good.

(I'm old enough to remember Audi's 'Unintended Acceleration' and the post title freaked me out!)

jerryk | 13. april 2018

@Brschram. I also remember the Audi Unintended Acceleration issue. At my kid's after school pickup this happened as a lady was maneuvering around. The car jumped the curb and struck a row of lockers.

And have experienced something like it with a Ford Escape. It would jump to 2000 rpm at a stop light if the light took longer than 20 seconds or so. 3 recalls with new throttle bodies and software and the car still did when I got rid of it.

Even today my current SUV, 2016 BMW X3, will sometimes autostart when not expected. Like when getting out the car in the garage.

james | 14. april 2018

I like using the Summon command to park in the garage.

Hold the top of the key for 3-5 secs. push the front or rear of the key once for your direction and the car will drive into place all the while i'm not in the car.

It sees my back wall and stops.

If it gets a little crooked then I push anything on the key and it stops.

I can see the tight garage better from being outside the car.

Teach dad this trick and he is master of his Tesla universe .

Practice a a few times. Gets easy. Its fun like flying a drone! | 17. april 2018

Tesla cars go just as fast in reverse as in drive, I think. Same gear ratio. My experiment with this cost me a tail light when I banged into our house. In that case I had only had the X a couple of days and was in a hurry when I backed out of the garage too fast.

@avesraggiana: Your folks are lucky that you are available to help. Sounds like your Dad needs an independent evaluation of his driving. Glad no one was hurt. At 81 I feel I am still able to drive safely but I continually wonder how I will know in time that this is no longer the case. My hope is that my wife will tell me in time. Good luck with your folks.

burdogg | 17. april 2018 - this is your conscious - you are no longer able to drive, you need to hand over your X to burdogg right now....

avesraggiana | 17. april 2018 Thank you for your kind remarks. My dad has already decided to stop driving. This whole thing has left him quite deflated, and he's still shaken when he thinks he could have killed my mum, his wife of 55 years.

At 87 years old, this was hardly the way my dad would have wanted to end his driving career, crashing a premium priced car and nearly taking out a part of his house.

I'm thankful that my dad didn't put me in the position of having to take his car keys away from him.

avesraggiana | 17. april 2018

Update, ten days after the accident.

House repairs are estimated at $11,000, plus another $4,000 in replacement appliances.

USAA have sent payment of $19,000 to Amato's Auto Body, even though Amato's have not yet completed their own estimate of supplemental repairs, which are expected to top $75,000, and may go up to as much as $100,000.

If USAA were thinking to write off the car, I'm mildly surprised that they bothered sending Amato's any payment at all.

A decision to write off or repair will not be reached until either the end of this week or early next week.

If the decision is taken to repair mum's Model X100D we were warned that we would be waiting about six months for repairs to be completed.