Friday, April 13, 2018

Tesla says it willingly withdrew from NTSB investigation

Tesla says it willingly withdrew from the party agreement with the National Transportation Safety Board, adding that the NTSB is more concerned with “press headlines than actually promoting safety,” a Tesla spokesperson told TechCrunch via email.

“Last week, in a conversation with the NTSB, we were told that if we made additional statements before their 12-24 month investigative process is complete, we would no longer be a party to the investigation agreement,” a Tesla spokesperson said in a statement to TechCrunch. “On Tuesday, we chose to withdraw from the agreement and issued a statement to correct misleading claims that had been made about Autopilot — claims which made it seem as though Autopilot creates safety problems when the opposite is true.”

This comes after the NTSB said it revoked Tesla’s party status in the investigation regarding the fatal crash involving one of Tesla’s Model X cars. The NTSB said it did so because Tesla, without permission from the NTSB, relayed information to the public regarding the investigation.

Tesla went on to note the prevalence of automotive fatalities in the United States in comparison to fatalities involving cars with Autopilot. Tesla says for every 320 million miles cars equipped with Autopilot drive, there is one fatality, including known pedestrian fatalities. That’s compared to one fatality for every 86 million miles driven for all vehicles, Tesla said.

“If you are driving a Tesla equipped with Autopilot hardware, you are 3.7 times less likely to be involved in a fatal accident and this continues to improve,” the spokesperson said.

Tesla also alleges its “clear in our conversations” with the NTSB that it cares less about safety and more about press headlines.

“Among other things, they repeatedly released partial bits of incomplete information to the media in violation of their own rules, at the same time that they were trying to prevent us from telling all the facts,” the spokesperson said. “We don’t believe this is right and we will be making an official complaint to Congress. We will also be issuing a Freedom Of Information Act request to understand the reasoning behind their focus on the safest cars in America while they ignore the cars that are the least safe.  Perhaps there is a sound rationale for this, but we cannot imagine what that could possibly be.”

Tesla also took time to note how the NTSB is an advisory body, rather than a regulatory one, and how Tesla has a “strong and positive relationship” with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA)

“When tested by NHTSA, Model S and Model X each received five stars not only overall but in every sub-category,” the Tesla spokesperson said. “This was the only time an SUV had ever scored that well. Moreover, of all the cars that NHTSA has ever tested, Model S and Model X scored as the two cars with the lowest probability of injury. There is no company that cares more about safety and the evidence speaks for itself.”

When reached for comment pertaining to Tesla’s claims, the NTSB says it stands by the press release it issued earlier and has nothing to add. Meanwhile, the NHTSA says its investigation is ongoing.

“The agency is in contact with local investigators, consistent with NHTSA’s vigilant oversight and authority over the safety of all motor vehicles and equipment,” an NHTSA spokesperson said in a statement to TechCrunch. “NHTSA is dispatching its Special Crash Investigation Team and will take action as appropriate.”