WASHINGTON -- The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is investigating Nissan Motor Co.’s top-selling model in the U.S. after hundreds of drivers complained a safety system is prone to suddenly triggering the brakes for no apparent reason.
More than 840 Nissan Rogue drivers have complained to NHTSA and the company that the vehicle’s automatic emergency braking system activates when there’s no obstruction ahead, according to a notice of the probe on the safety regulator’s website. The agency said there are reports of 14 crashes and five injuries linked to the issue.
In a statement, Nissan said it has consulted with NHTSA while the company investigated the issue internally, and notified customers of an available software update that improves the performance of the Rogue’s automatic emergency braking system free of charge.
NHTSA will examine the cause of the unintended braking and whether steps by Nissan to address the issue through customer-service initiatives were suitable. The defect investigation covers more than 550,000 Nissan Rogue CUVs from the 2017-18 model years and is the latest indication transportation safety officials are closely watching for new risks posed by automated driver-assist systems as they become more common on U.S. roadways.
The Rogue was Nissan's best-selling model in 2018, and through August this year.
NHTSA began evaluating reports of the issue after the Center for Auto Safety petitioned for a defect probe in March. Jason Levine, executive director of the Center for Auto Safety, said in a statement that Nissan should recall the vehicles.
“While we are pleased to see NHTSA finally open a formal investigation based on our petition, this should not delay Nissan taking more seriously the danger the phantom braking defect presents for everyone on the road," he said. "This issue deserves a recall and all Nissan owners must receive a working, permanent remedy as soon as possible."
In February, Nissan recalled 75,358 2017-2018 Rogue and Qashqai vehicles in Canada, warning that a metal structure like a railroad crossing or overhead sign could cause the automatic emergency braking system to unnecessarily activate and informing owners that a software update was available.
Reuters contributed to this report.