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US auto agency examining Tesla unintended acceleration complaint

FILE- This Sept. 30, 2016, file photo shows the logo of the Tesla model S at the Paris Auto Show in Paris, France. The U.S. government's auto safety agency is looking into allegations that all three of Tesla's electric vehicles can suddenly accelerate on their own. An unidentified person petitioned the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration asking for an investigation into the problem. The agency says the allegations include about 500,000 Tesla Model 3, Model S and Model X vehicles from the 2013 through 2019 model years. (AP Photo/Christophe Ena, File)

By TOM KRISHER

AP Auto Writer

DETROIT (AP) — The U.S. government’s auto safety agency is looking into allegations that all three of Tesla’s electric vehicle models can suddenly accelerate on their own.

An unidentified person petitioned the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration asking for an investigation into the problem. An agency document shows 127 owner complaints to the government that include 110 crashes and 52 injuries.

The agency said it will look into allegations that cover about 500,000 Tesla vehicles including Model 3, Model S and Model X vehicles from the 2013 through 2019 model years. The agency’s investigations office will evaluate the petition and decide if it should open a formal probe.

Messages were left Friday seeking comment from Tesla.

NHTSA is already investigating three December crashes involving Tesla vehicles in which three people were killed. The agency’s special crash investigations unit sent teams to Gardena, California, and near Terre Haute, Indiana, to probe two fatal crashes. Another crash in Connecticut also is under investigation.

Frank Borris, a former head of safety defect investigations for NHTSA, said the number of complaints cited in the petition is unusual and warrants further investigation.

“The sheer number of complaints would certainly catch my eye,” said Borris, who now runs an auto safety consulting business.

Tesla owners communicate with other owners on Internet forums and social media, and that could influence the number of complaints, he said.

He said the timing of the petition is good, because the agency needs to do a “deeper dive” into Tesla safety.

Some of the unintended acceleration complaints, which have yet to be verified by NHTSA, allege that the cars’ electronics malfunctioned.