Safety in Question: Angela Chao's Death Exposes Persistent Reverse Gear Issues in Tesla Vehicles

Prior to the tragic incident involving shipping magnate Angela Chao,  concerns had been voiced by Tesla owners over what appeared to be design  flaws and potential malfunctions leading to inadvertent reverse  driving. 

Chao's death, occurring last month when her Tesla Model X SUV  inadvertently backed into a pond while she was leaving a party at a  ranch outside Austin, highlighted these ongoing worries. 

According to The Wall Street Journal, Chao had attempted a three-point  turn but mistakenly engaged reverse instead of drive, causing the  vehicle to roll over an embankment and into the water.  

Unfortunately, this fatal error wasn't isolated, as Chao had reportedly encountered similar issues previously. 

Chao's experience is not an isolated incident, as indicated by  complaints found in a US Department of Transportation database by  Business Insider. Among the 12 complaints related to Tesla's reverse  function, seven cited confusion with the gearshift design, leading to  inadvertent shifts between reverse and drive.  

The remaining five complaints noted instances where the vehicle appeared to switch gears unpredictably. 

Such concerns have been echoed on Tesla forums, with owners sharing  experiences of mistakenly shifting into reverse or encountering  confusion over the gearshift mechanism. 

Despite these issues, reverse-shifting incidents are seen as minor compared to other reported problems with Tesla vehicles. 

For instance, the same federal database containing the 12  reverse-shifting complaints recorded a total of 4,228 complaints related  to various Tesla issues. Notably, there have been over 700 complaints  about "phantom braking," where vehicles with autopilot engaged  unexpectedly brake for nonexistent hazards, causing safety concerns.  

Tragically, at least one fatality has been linked to phantom braking, prompting regulators to launch an investigation in 2022.