March 11, 2019
Alison S. Gokal
Gokal Law Group, Inc.
26080 Towne Center Drive
Foothill Ranch, CA 92610
RE: Your Client Mallory Harcourt
Tesla Model X (VIN: 5YJXCBE29JF143687)
Dear Ms. Gokal:
This responds to your February 21, 2019 letter regarding an incident involving your client on December 27, 2018. We are sorry to learn of this incident and your client’s injuries, and we hope she, her son and her baby are all doing okay. Safety is of paramount importance to Tesla. We design our vehicles with particular attention to safety, which is why our vehicles are among the safest ever put on the road. We diligently investigate all complaints of vehicle malfunction and we thank you for giving us the opportunity to investigate and address your client’s concerns.
As you may know, Tesla vehicles record operational and diagnostic data continuously and, at regular intervals, transmit that data over-the-air to our servers. That data enables our engineers and service teams to assess vehicle health remotely and diagnose and potentially resolve customer concerns. In this case, our engineering team reviewed the diagnostic log data from the time of the incident and determined that the vehicle was operating as designed and responded appropriately to the inputs supplied – albeit, in this case, some of those inputs were reportedly coming from your client’s young son.
Specifically, in this case, the driver parked the vehicle, unbuckled and opened the driver’s door to exit. The driver’s door was then closed and the left side falcon wing door (i.e., the left rear door) was opened. Moments later, someone pressed the driver’s door handle triggering the driver’s door to open. The vehicle remained in Park at this time and the left falcon door remained open. About 9 seconds later, the brake pedal was pressed, which prompted the driver’s door to automatically close. About 3 seconds later, the gear selector lever was manually used to shift the vehicle into Drive gear, triggering an operator alert advising that various doors were open with the vehicle in gear.
Over the next 6 seconds, the vehicle continued to be in Drive gear with the brake pedal pressed until the accelerator pedal was pressed and the brake pedal was released. Over the next second, the vehicle speed increased in response to the pressure being applied to the accelerator pedal. Over the next 2 seconds, as the accelerator pedal continued to be pressed ranging from 44% to 98%, the brake pedal was briefly pressed, prompting the vehicle to issue a user message advising that both pedals were being pressed; at this time, pressing the brake overrode the accelerator pedal such that the motor torque being commanded by the accelerator pedal input was appropriately suppressed.
In the next 4 seconds, while varying manual pressure continued to be applied to the accelerator pedal, the vehicle speed increase was consistent with the pressure applied to the accelerator pedal, and then multiple alerts were triggered indicative of an impact to the left side falcon door. Then, the brake pedal was pressed including activation of the Anti-Lock Braking System, the accelerator pedal was released, and the vehicle came to a stop.
Our vehicles are designed with a logic that automatically shifts the vehicle into Park when certain criteria are met – namely, (1) neither pedal is pressed for a few seconds, and (2) 2 of the 3 following conditions are met: driver is not detected, driver’s seat belt is unbuckled, or driver’s door is open. In this instance, the pedals were being pressed so the conditions necessary to shift into Park were not met until after the incident when the pedals were released and then the vehicle automatically shifted to Park.
The above demonstrates that the vehicle responded to the operator’s inputs, as designed. We regret that this incident happened, however, we have not found any other instance of this sequence of events occurring—an unsupervised child manages to successfully shift the vehicle into gear and then apply the accelerator pedal—and we do not believe it is reasonably foreseeable. We trust you will consider the above before taking any further action in this matter.
Finally, with respect to your request for insurance information, this will confirm that Tesla does not have insurance applicable to a claim of this nature (i.e., a claim of defect in a customer-owned vehicle).
Please direct any future correspondence to my attention, though our registered agent for service of formal process is CT Corporation.
Ryan A. McCarthy