As General Motors (NYSE:GM) fights its way through the 2.6 million unit recall over the faulty ignition switch, reports have surfaced that the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is opening a new probe into 60,000 Chevrolet Impala sedans to look into a solitary report that the emergency braking system malfunctioned and has been linked to a crash, the Detroit News said.
The NHTSA’s investigation is centered around a single report of “inappropriate activation of the emergency braking system” in a brand new 2014 Impala, Detroit News said. The driver “alleges that the driver assist system inappropriately activated emergency braking bringing the vehicle to a complete stop under what the driver considered to be full braking force,” the complaint detailed.
The car was a rental vehicle and had just 2,500 miles on the odometer. There was no report filed with local police and no injuries as a result, but the NHTSA is likely incredibly sensitive to any unusual complaints stemming from a General Motors vehicle — especially a new one.
The complaint went on to describe how the driver of the vehicle experienced a set of separate incidents all involving the emergency braking system, which is meant to stop the car suddenly if the event of an impending collision. The driver “heard [three] to [four] beeps from the forward collision avoidance system. This was immediately followed by an autonomous brake activation resulting in their vehicle being struck from the rear by another vehicle” while traveling at about 40 miles per hour, Detroit News quoted the complaint as saying.
General Motors spokesman Alan Adler told the publication that the company was cooperating with the NHTSA’s preliminary investigation. Though it’s odd for the NHTSA to open an investigation based on one complaint — it usually waits to establish a trend or pattern before making the decision to initiate a recall — the agency is on heightened alert after GM’s recall-riddled first quarter. To be clear, there is no recall in effect as of yet, just an early probe.
The issue also draws attention to the increasingly complex systems that play integral roles in today’s vehicles. As more functions are made autonomous, the risk for potential problems grows; proponents of the technology argue, however, that the rate at which an autonomous system fails is far less than the rate of human error, though many aren’t as confident.
The news follows a watchdog account from earlier this month regarding older-model Impalas, regarding a defect in 2003 to 2010 model year vehicles’ airbags due to a sensor that miscalculates when the airbag is deployed in an accident. The Center for Automotive Safety says there have been 143 fatalities as a result, ninety-eight of whom were wearing seat belts at the time of the accident.