The Volkswagen Atlas Faces Heat for Phantom Braking

Uh oh, the Volkswagen Atlas could face trouble soon. While the SUV isn’t exactly guilty of doing anything wrong yet, investigators are looking into its complaints. It’s possible that the Volkswagen Atlas and Atlas Cross Sport struggle with phantom braking. 

The Volkswagen Atlas might randomly brake 

Silver 2022 Volkswagen Atlas on the road
2022 Volkswagen Atlas | Volkswagen

According to The Detroit News, drivers of the Volkswagen Atlas and Volkswagen Atlas Cross Sport are reporting random applications of the brakes. It could be a malfunction related to the automatic emergency braking system. 

Kendall Heiman was driving her 2021 VW Atlas Cross Sport with her 15-year-old son in the car when the systems suddenly went haywire. The driver’s side window rolled down, the dashboard warning lights illuminated, alarms were beeping, then the SUV suddenly braked for no reason. 

She shared that her care seemed possessed but kept driving. Display messages didn’t indicate that she needed to stop. Then the Cross Sport randomly braked a few more times that day. After her SUV came to a complete stop and another SUV barely missed rear-ending her, she made a service appointment. 

A mechanic detected electric shorts in the wiring harness. She waited for two months to have her vehicle repaired and discovered she wasn’t alone. About 47 other drivers reported the same issue. 

Is the VW Atlas under investigation? 

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) hasn’t officially opened an investigation for the Volkswagen Atlas and Cross Sport. But due to reports of narrowly escaping collisions, the NHTSA is looking into things. 

Before issuing a recall, the NHTSA needs to collect and analyze additional data. The team is gathering information from VW about the potential problem and is reviewing complaints and other data sources. 

Complaints about the unexpected braking with the VW SUVs began in September. Volkswagen said its working on the problem but stopped short of issuing a recall. 

VW shared that it is aware of concerns related to faulty door wiring harnesses in certain Volkswagen Atlas and Atlas Cross Sport vehicles and is working closely with the NHTSA regarding the next steps toward identifying vehicles at risk. 

Safety advocates suggest that new technology that uses cameras and computers to detect obstacles and to slow down and stop shows great promise for preventing accidents. But technology has led to open investigations into unexpected braking for Honda, Tesla, and Nissan vehicles. 

How safe is the VW Atlas? 

The 2022 Volkswagen Atlas Cross Sport parked near tree
2022 Volkswagen Atlas Cross Sport | Volkswagen

On a positive note, the Volkswagen Atlas has excellent safety scores. The Insurance Institute of Highway Safety found that the VW Atlas can protect drivers and passengers in various simulated crashes. 

The VW Atlas scored a ‘Good’ rating in each category, which is the highest score possible. But it did receive a Marginal score for the child seat anchors because they are too deep in the seat and take some force to attach. 

Also, the Atlas scored a Basic rating for its vehicle-to-pedestrian front crash prevention system, while the rest of the systems received Superior ratings. Basic is still a passing score. 

We will keep an eye on VW and the NHTSA to see how things develop. A recall will be released if necessary. Typically, recalls involve fixing the issue for free.

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