By Kiet Do

GILROY (KPIX) — After an examiner flunked a teen driving a Tesla due to its unique brake system, the California Department of Motor Vehicles has instructed its staff to treat electric vehicles in the same manner as conventional gas-powered vehicles, during behind-the-wheel driving tests.

The communication to the agency’s employees comes in the wake of a November 23 driving test at the Gilroy office at 6984 Automall Parkway.

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Bryce Rosenblum, 16, embarked on his driving test alongside the DMV instructor in a Tesla Model 3, with regenerative braking activated in standard mode.

“Right off the bat, she warns me that the car was slowing down on its own, like at a stop sign. And she told me that happened twice, before we even left the parking lot. And then we continue on the test. We did everything that a test is supposed to have in it. And then she then pulled me in and told me I failed,” said Bryce Rosenblum.

The Model 3’s regenerative braking system, like most EVs, activates when the driver eases pressure off the accelerator. The system then recaptures the vehicle’s kinetic energy, and charges the battery, slowing the vehicle down without utilizing the brakes.

According to the teen, the DMV instructor did not order him to deactivate the regenerative braking system.

In the comment section of the drive test score sheet, the instructor wrote, “Applicant did not slow car. Only put foot on brake after car was slowed and stopping.”

“And so I asked her what I could do next time to pass the test. And she told me to not take a Tesla, and just to borrow someone else’s car. Bring someone else’s that has a motor, instead of actual electric car,” said Bryce Rosenblum.

Bryce’s father, Neal Rosenblum, filed a complaint with the local office and escalated the matter to the supervisor and regional manager.

Neal recalled a conversation with instructor, immediately following the failed test.

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“This is a broken process,” said Neal Rosenblum. “In essence, she was saying the car was braking itself. And I said, ‘OK, but that’s how the car works.’ And she said, ‘But he needs to show me that he can actually move his foot from the gas pedal to the brake.’ And I said, ‘Ma’am, the car wasn’t set up like that. If he lifts his foot off the gas and starts to move it to the brake, the car is going to stop in the middle of the road.’”

Apparently, the agency was aware of regenerative braking issues with electric vehicles during driving tests for several months.

In August 2021, Teslarati published a report detailing a similar failed test.

According to the report, “the DMV examiner informed the Tesla owner that he had failed because of the Model 3’s ‘automatic engage.’ Explaining further, the examiner stated that she could feel the brakes even when the physical brake pedal was not being pressed.”

The Teslarati report stated the agency at the time was “working to ensure that examiners have an understanding of the function and how it impacts driving”.

KPIX submitted an inquiry to the agency’s Public Affairs Office about Bryce Rosenblum’s complaint, and received a response several hours later:

Thank you for your inquiry related to Bryce Rosenblum’s behind-the-wheel driving test. DMV’s Field Operations Division reviewed the drive test score sheet and has determined the drive test score will be revised as passing. The customer will be advised that their license should be arriving in the mail soon.

The DMV has issued guidance to staff related to the use of plug-in hybrid electric vehicle (PHEV) or electric vehicle (EV) equipped with a regenerative braking system and/or one-pedal braking feature for any drive test. If a customer uses a PHEV or EV with regenerative braking for their drive test, staff has been advised to not postpone the test because the vehicle is equipped with a regenerative braking system and/or a one-pedal braking feature, follow existing drive test criteria when scoring the test, and the application of the regenerative braking system shall not be used as the sole reason to score a driving error or critical driving error.

The Rosenblum family commended the DMV on the prompt response.

“I mean, I have to take my hat off to them for moving that fast, because that was just insane,” said Neal Rosenblum. “I think at the end, I felt a little vindicated. So, yeah, it felt good.”

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“It’s kind of cool how fast they moved, because they’re known for being slow,” said Neal Rosenblum. “I think it’s important to stand by something that you believe in and so if you believe something strong enough, you should fight for it.”