[Federal Register Volume 81, Number 28 (Thursday, February 11, 2016)]
[Notices]
[Pages 7407-7408]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 2016-02722]


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DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION

National Highway Traffic Safety Administration

[Docket No. NHTSA-2014-0096; Notice 2]


Tesla Motors, Inc. (Tesla), Grant of Petition for Decision of 
Inconsequential Noncompliance

AGENCY: National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), 
Department of Transportation (DOT).

ACTION: Grant of petition.

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SUMMARY: Tesla Motors, Inc. (Tesla) has determined that certain model 
year (MY) 2008 Tesla Roadster passenger cars do not fully comply with 
paragraph S4.4(c)(2), of Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard (FMVSS) 
No. 138, Tire Pressure Monitoring Systems. Tesla filed a report dated 
August 1, 2014, pursuant to 49 CFR part 573, Defect and Noncompliance 
Responsibility and Reports. Tesla then petitioned NHTSA under 49 CFR 
part 556 requesting a decision that the subject noncompliance is 
inconsequential to motor vehicle safety.

ADDRESSES: For further information on this decision contact Kerrin 
Bressant, Office of Vehicles Safety Compliance, the National Highway 
Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), telephone (202) 366-1110, 
facsimile (202) 366-3081.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION:

I. Overview

    Pursuant to 49 U.S.C. 30118(d) and 30120(h) and the rule 
implementing those provisions at 49 CFR part 556, Tesla submitted a 
petition for an exemption from the notification and remedy requirements 
of 49 U.S.C. Chapter 301 on the basis that this noncompliance is 
inconsequential to motor vehicle safety.
    Notice of receipt of the petition was published, with a 30-day 
public comment period, on June 24, 2015, in the Federal Register (80 FR 
36403). No comments were received. To view the petition and all 
supporting documents log onto the Federal Docket Management System 
(FDMS) Web site at: http://www.regulations.gov/. Then follow the online 
search instructions to locate docket number ``NHTSA-2014-0096.''

II. Vehicles Involved

    Affected are approximately 542 MY 2008 Roadster model passenger 
cars manufactured from February 1, 2008 through October 29, 2009.

III. Noncompliance

    Tesla explains that if a fault is detected in a sensor, because the 
sensor is faulty, missing or unapproved, the Tire Pressure Monitoring 
System (TPMS) malfunction telltale will flash for 60 to 90 seconds and 
then remain continuously illuminated as required by FMVSS No. 138. 
However, the TPMS malfunction telltale fails to operate properly when a 
faulty, missing or unapproved sensor is detected and then the vehicle's 
ignition is cycled off and back on. In this situation, the malfunction 
telltale in the subject vehicles does not re-illuminate immediately as 
required when the vehicle's ignition system is re-activated. Instead, 
the affected vehicles must reach a speed between 20 miles per hour 
(mph) and 25 mph for a maximum period of at least 90 seconds before the 
TPMS malfunction telltale re-illuminates.

IV. Rule Text

    Paragraph S4.4(c)(2) of FMVSS No. 138 requires in pertinent part:

    S4.4 TPMS Malfunction.
* * * * *
    (c) Combination low tire pressure/TPMS malfunction telltale. The 
vehicle meets the requirements of S4.4(a) when equipped with a 
combined Low Tire Pressure/TPMS malfunction telltale that:
    (2) Flashes for a period of at least 60 seconds but no longer 
than 90 seconds upon detection of any condition specified in S4.4(a) 
after the ignition locking system is activated to the ``On'' 
(``Run'') position. After each period of prescribed flashing, the 
telltale must remain continuously illuminated as long as a 
malfunction exists and the ignition locking system is in the ``On'' 
(``Run'') position. This flashing and illumination sequence must be 
repeated each time the ignition locking system is placed in the 
``On'' (``Run'') position until the situation causing the 
malfunction has been corrected. . . .

V. Summary of Tesla's Analyses

    Tesla stated its belief that the subject noncompliance is 
inconsequential to motor vehicle safety for the following reasons:

    (A) Tesla stated that although the TPMS malfunction indicator 
will not illuminate immediately after the vehicle is restarted, it 
generally will illuminate shortly thereafter and in any event it 
will illuminate in no more than 90 seconds after the vehicle 
accelerates between 20-25 mph. Tesla further explained that 
additional warnings via the ``fault'' display in the dashboard and 
the auxiliary display warnings will appear anew. Clearing this 
``new'' warning in the auxiliary screen will require the driver to 
``actively'' (take positive action) to clear the screen. Tesla 
believes these additional steps required to clear the auxiliary 
screen warning ensures driver attention to the issue.
    (B) Tesla states that they provide warnings and alerts above and 
beyond what is required by regulations. Checks include wheel sensor 
fitment (compatibility) and tire pressures. If sensors are ``new'' 
(i.e., different from those verified at the previous ignition 
cycle), the sensors are ``learned'' and after calibrations 
performed, a check of all tires is again performed for any low 
pressure conditions. In addition, the subject vehicles are equipped 
with an ``auxiliary'' screen which displays a diagram of the vehicle 
with respective tire positions and status of those respective tires. 
Tesla explained that this type of detailed information and multiple 
alerts ensures the driver is well informed of a potential low tire 
pressure condition.
    (C) Tesla said that the noncompliance is confined to one 
particular aspect of the functionality of the otherwise compliant 
TPMS malfunction indicator. All other aspects of the low-pressure 
monitoring system functionality are fully compliant with the 
requirements of FMVSS No. 138.
    (D) Tesla stated that it is not aware of any customer 
complaints, field communications, incidents or injuries related to 
the failure of the TPMS noncompliance.

    In summation, Tesla believes that the described noncompliance of 
the subject vehicles is inconsequential to motor vehicle safety, and 
that its petition, to

[[Page 7408]]

exempt Tesla from providing recall notification of noncompliance as 
required by 49 U.S.C. 30118 and remedying the noncompliance as required 
by 49 U.S.C. 30120 should be granted.

NHTSA's Decision

    NHTSA's Analysis: Tesla explained that although the malfunction 
indicator does not re-illuminate immediately after the vehicle is 
restarted, it will illuminate shortly thereafter--within 90 seconds 
after the vehicle reaches a speed between 20 mph and 25 mph.
    NHTSA recognizes that the malfunction indicator will not illuminate 
as required for very short periods of time--when the vehicle is 
traveling at low speeds and thus poses little risk to vehicle safety. 
Under normal driving conditions, a driver will begin a trip by 
accelerating moderately beyond 20-25 mph, and as explained by Tesla, 
once the vehicle accelerates above 20-25 mph, the malfunction indicator 
re-illuminates and then it will remain illuminated for the entire 
ignition cycle, regardless of vehicle speed. We understand the 
noncompliance will only occur in the very rare case where the driver 
begins a trip and never exceeds the 20-25 mph threshold, the speed 
required to re-activate the malfunction indicator. No real safety risk 
exists because at such low speeds there is little risk of vehicle loss 
of control due to underinflated tires. Furthermore, the possibility 
that the vehicle will experience both a low inflation pressure 
condition and a malfunction simultaneously is highly unlikely.
    Tesla states that they provide warnings and alerts above and beyond 
what is required by regulations and that the subject vehicles are 
equipped with an ``auxiliary'' screen which displays a diagram of the 
vehicle with respective tire positions and status of those respective 
tires. Tesla explained that this type of detailed information and 
multiple alerts ensures the driver is well informed of a potential low 
tire pressure condition.
    The agency evaluated the displays Tesla uses in the noncompliant 
vehicles. In addition to the combination telltale indicator lamp, the 
subject vehicles are equipped with a ``plan view'' icon which displays 
the pressures for all four wheels individually. If any wheel has a 
malfunctioning pressure sensor the indicator for that wheel displays 
several dashes indicating that there is a problem with that respective 
wheel. The additional information is not required by the safety 
standard but can be used as an aid to the driver to determine the 
status of a vehicle's tires.
    Tesla discussed that the noncompliance only involves one specific 
aspect of the malfunction functionality and that the primary function 
of the TPMS, identification of other malfunctions and of low inflation 
pressure scenarios, is not affected. Tesla explained that in the 
subject vehicles, the TPMS only fails to operate properly when a 
faulty, missing or non-approved sensor is detected and the ignition is 
recycled. According to Tesla, if such a fault is detected, and then the 
ignition is cycled off and back on, the MIL will reset, thus requiring 
the system to re-detect the fault or missing/unapproved sensor versus 
immediately re-illuminating the MIL from the previously detected fault.
    The agency agrees with Tesla's reasoning that the primary function 
of the TPMS is to identify low tire inflation pressure conditions which 
Tesla's system does as required by the safety standard. There are a 
variety of other malfunctions that can occur in addition to the 
incompatible wheel/tire malfunction identified in this petition. We 
understand from Tesla that its TPMS will perform as required during all 
other type system malfunctions.
    Tesla mentioned that they have not received or are aware of any 
consumer complaints, field communications, incidences or injuries 
related to this noncompliance. In addition to the analysis done by 
Tesla that looked at customer complaints, field communications, 
incidents or injuries related to this condition, NHTSA conducted 
additional checks of NHTSA's Office of Defects Investigations consumer 
complaint database and found no related complaints.
    NHTSA's Decision: In consideration of the foregoing analysis, NHTSA 
has decided that Tesla has met its burden of demonstrating that the 
FMVSS No. 138 noncompliance is inconsequential to motor vehicle safety. 
Accordingly, Tesla's petition is hereby granted and Tesla is exempted 
from the obligation of providing notification of, and a remedy for, 
that the subject noncompliance under 49 U.S.C. 30118 and 30120.
    NHTSA notes that the statutory provisions (49 U.S.C. 30118(d) and 
30120(h)) that permit manufacturers to file petitions for a 
determination of inconsequentiality allow NHTSA to exempt manufacturers 
only from the duties found in sections 30118 and 30120, respectively, 
to notify owners, purchasers, and dealers of a defect or noncompliance 
and to remedy the defect or noncompliance. Therefore, this decision 
only applies to the subject nonconforming vehicles that Tesla no longer 
controlled at the time it determined that the noncompliance existed. 
However, the granting of this decision does not relieve vehicle 
distributors and dealers of the prohibitions on the sale, offer for 
sale, or introduction or delivery for introduction into interstate 
commerce of the noncompliant vehicles under their control after Tesla 
notified them that the subject noncompliance existed.

    Authority:  49 U.S.C. 30118, 30120: delegations of authority at 
49 CFR 1.95 and 501.8.

Jeffrey M. Giuseppe,
Director, Office of Vehicle Safety Compliance.
[FR Doc. 2016-02722 Filed 2-10-16; 8:45 am]
 BILLING CODE 4910-59-P