Tesla clashes with NTSB over fatal Model X crash investigation
Tesla has been removed from the National Transportation Safety Board’s investigation into a fatal crash of a Tesla Model X in the Bay Area.
The advisory group pulled the electric car maker from the investigation after Tesla continued to release information about the crash, including a post on the company blog confirming that the vehicle was in Autopilot mode. The NTSB said the removal was a rare move, but Tesla’s information releases “do not further transportation safety or serve the public interest.”
In a news release about the removal, the NTSB wrote, “Such releases of incomplete information often lead to speculation and incorrect assumptions about the probable cause of a crash, which does a disservice to the investigative process and the traveling public.”
The NTSB expects its full investigation and report to take at least a year and up to two years, an amount of time Tesla doesn’t have the patience for to stay mum. It’s not in the company’s interest to allow speculation and rumors to flourish about its cars’ safety.
A letter written Thursday to Tesla CEO Elon Musk from NTSB chairman Robert Sumwalt states, “only appropriate NTSB personnel are authorized to publicly disclose investigative findings.”
But Tesla is pushing back on the NTSB’s reasoning for removing the company from the investigation. In a strongly-worded statement Thursday, Tesla said, “It’s been clear in our conversations with the NTSB that they’re more concerned with press headlines than actually promoting safety.” Tesla claims it will file a complaint about the NTSB to Congress.
Tesla is hellbent on defending its cars, technology, and safety reputation — at any cost. Even if it means getting booted from a government investigation into its own vehicle. (The video below shows a Tesla driving in Autopilot mode.)
In its statement, Tesla said, “…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 appears to reference a statement Tesla gave to a local Bay Area news outlet in which the company blamed the driver in the fatal accident, Walter Huang, for the crash: “…the only way for this accident to have occurred is if Mr. Huang was not paying attention to the road.”
Here’s Tesla entire statement:
“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. 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. In the US, there is one automotive fatality every 86 million miles across all vehicles. For Tesla, there is one fatality, including known pedestrian fatalities, every 320 million miles in vehicles equipped with Autopilot hardware. 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.
It’s been clear in our conversations with the NTSB that they’re more concerned with press headlines than actually promoting safety. 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. 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.
Something the public may not be aware of is that the NTSB is not a regulatory body, it is an advisory body. The regulatory body for the automotive industry in the US is the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) with whom we have a strong and positive relationship. After doing a comprehensive study, NHTSA found that even the early version of Tesla Autopilot resulted in 40% fewer crashes. Autopilot has improved substantially since then.
When tested by NHTSA, Model S and Model X each received five stars not only overall but in every sub-category. 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.”