Published: Fri, April 13, 2018
Sci-tech | By Lila Blake

NTSB Revokes Tesla's Party Status

NTSB Revokes Tesla's Party Status

CEO Elon Musk has battled vehicle dealers, President Trump, and more than a few reporters.

Another curious piece of news has reared its head in regards to Tesla Inc (NASDAQ:TSLA), and this time it has to do with the National Transportation Safety Board.

Tesla retains its party status in several other NTSB investigations involving Tesla vehicles, including the crash of a Tesla auto that was operating under Autopilot when it drove into a fire truck in California. But the NTSB said Tesla flouted the deal with the agency when it agreed to be a party.

"There is nothing in the party agreement that prevents a company from enacting swift and effective measures to counter a threat to public safety", said Sumwalt. That usually takes at least a year, sometimes two. It appeared as though Tesla had patched things up. Once on the scene, the NTSB takes charge of an investigation, and involved parties usually sign an agreement not to release crash details without specific approval from the safety board.

"We believe in transparency, so an agreement that prevents public release of information for over a year is unacceptable", Tesla said.

Companies that no longer have formal status as a party to an NTSB investigation can lose access to information uncovered in the probe and the ability to shape the official record of the incident, said Peter Goelz, a former managing director at the NTSB who is now senior vice president at O'Neill & Associates, a Washington lobbying and public relations firm.


"Releases of incomplete information often lead to speculation and incorrect assumptions about the probable cause of a crash", the agency said in its statement.

Something the public may not be aware of is that the NTSB is not a regulatory body, it is an advisory body. Indeed, the NTSB has no regulatory power. That agency is also conducting an investigation of the March 23 accident. As of the end of 2017, Tesla reported more than $850 million in customer deposits, including for the Model 3.

"We empathize with Mr. Huang's family, who are understandably facing loss and grief, but the false impression that Autopilot is unsafe will cause harm to others on the road", Tesla said.

The comments by Musk, 46, were somewhat inconsistent with Tesla's statement earlier this month, in which the company said Model 3 may exceed the growth rate that Ford Motor Co. exhibited with the Model T. Tesla shares fell as much as 2.4 percent and were down 1.7 percent to $295.85 as of 10:36 a.m.in NY. NHTSA pinned the crash on driver error, saying the system wasn't defective.

Tesla and the NTSB have had an increasingly frosty relationship in recent weeks, as Tesla has released information to the media over the NTSB's objections. This is a better way to gauge whether a driver is actually paying attention, and it's harder for drivers to circumvent. But the basic premise of the system remains: The vehicle works the steering and speed, the human monitors and intervenes as needed.

Knudson said the NTSB will still be able to get information from Tesla for its investigation and could make urgent safety recommendations if needed. NHTSA found that even the early version of Tesla Autopilot resulted in 40% fewer crashes and it has improved substantially since then. Cadillac's Super Cruise is especially sophisticated.


The Tesla chief executive said he was taking a hands-on approach "sleeping on the factory floor" at present to oversee the firm's progress - "because I don't have time to go home and shower". It stuck bright green and red LEDs in the top steering wheel to grab the driver's attention when needed, and can vibrate the seat.

Several other large investors have also modified their holdings of TSLA.

Tesla CEO Elon Musk is aiming to move one million examples of the compact crossover per year, despite the fact he admitted April 12 that orders of the Model Y's sibling, the Model 3, would see a "time shift" of six to nine months' delay.

The issue of driver attentiveness "is really a critical area", said MIT's Reimer, whose team is testing a fleet of vehicles rigged with cameras to observe how drivers perform in real-world situations.

That's fair. Humans cause 40,000 deaths on U.S. roads every year. She said Walter complained that his Tesla's Autopilot had steered toward that same barrier on several occasions.


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