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Blog NTSB Says Tesla Was Dropped From Crash Investigation For Releasing Details

Tesla has been removed from the National Transportation Safety Board’s investigation into a fatal accident that occurred while a Model X was using Autopilot, the agency announced today.

“The NTSB took this action because Tesla violated the party agreement by releasing investigative information before it was vetted and confirmed by the NTSB,” the agency said in a statement. “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.”

Still, its unclear if Tesla was removed or voluntarily left the investigation. Tesla said Wednesday that it chose to leave the investigation over the dispute.

“Tesla withdrew from the party agreement with the NTSB because it requires that we not release information about Autopilot to the public, a requirement which we believe fundamentally affects public safety negatively,” the company said in an emailed statement to Bloomberg. “We believe in transparency, so an agreement that prevents public release of information for over a year is unacceptable.”

[Update: 5:30 p.m. ET] Further advancing the public feud, Tesla sent Thursday an updated statement to CNBC saying they left the investigation on Tuesday and plan to complain to Congress.

“It’s been clear in our conversations with the NTSB that they’re more concerned with press headlines than actually promoting safety, the Tesla statement to CNBC said. “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.”

The accident in question took place on March 23rd near Mountain View, Calif. when the driver crashed into a concrete lane divider. Tesla issued a statement after the crash saying that while Autopilot was activated, the vehicle’s recorded data suggests that the crash occurred when the driver failed to put his hands on the wheel after several warnings to do so.

The NTSB said it was “unhappy” with the statement.

“In each of our investigations involving a Tesla vehicle, Tesla has been extremely cooperative on assisting with the vehicle data,” an agency spokesman told the Washington Post. “However, the NTSB is unhappy with the release of investigative information by Tesla.”

Musk then responded to a TMC story posted on Twitter to justify the release of information.


Following a television appearance by the driver’s family, Tesla again issued a statement saying the  driver ignored warnings to take the wheel. That statement seems to have contributed to the conflict with NTSB.

As noted by Bloomberg, Tesla’s loss of formal status as a party to the NTSB investigation means it can lose access to certain information uncovered in the probe and the ability to shape the official record of the incident.

While rare, the NTSB has revoked party status in other investigations. In 2009, the NTSB revoked the party status of the National Air Traffic Controllers Association in the investigation of a midair collision over the Hudson River. In 2014, the party status of both the Independent Pilots Association and UPS were revoked during the investigation of the crash of UPS Flight 1354 in Birmingham, Ala.

 
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SeaDoc

2018 P3 on FSD Beta & 2022 X Plaid FSD
Dec 31, 2016
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Palm Desert, CA
Tesla did the right thing - to be whipsawed into agreeing to keep results secret for a year would be a disservice to all of us Tesla owners who believe in transparency as well. We all need to know the limitations of our 'self-driving' capabilities with each software/firmware upgrade released by Tesla. NTSB would thwart that objective and keep us blindly in the dark... A very dangerous place to be... Thanks again, Elon, for doing the right thing... @SeaDoc
 

Tam

Well-Known Member
Nov 25, 2012
11,535
10,598
Visalia, CA
...one year...

In the firing letter, NTSB countered back that it does issue urgent safety recommendation and allow "corrective actions to be carried out immediately" and not waiting for a year as in 3/19/2018 sightseeing helicopter crash in New York.

It is unfortunate that NTSB does not consider Tesla's reminder of keeping hands on the wheel and fixing freeway impact attenuators as "urgent safety recommendation."
 

Tam

Well-Known Member
Nov 25, 2012
11,535
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Visalia, CA
Tesla responded to the firing:

"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."
 

chillaban

Active Member
May 5, 2016
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In the firing letter, NTSB countered back that it does issue urgent safety recommendation and allow "corrective actions to be carried out immediately" and not waiting for a year as in 3/19/2018 sightseeing helicopter crash in New York.

It is unfortunate that NTSB does not consider Tesla's reminder of keeping hands on the wheel and fixing freeway impact attenuators as "urgent safety recommendation."

The problematic part is they get to issue urgent recommendations but none of the other "parties" are allowed to say anything for the duration of the investigation.

And not all of their recommendations are on-base. For example, in the Florida crash they referenced, their two recommendations were that Tesla geo-restricts allowed roads to the ones the system is designed to work on (e.g. restricted access highways) and that a better mechanism for monitoring driver engagement is added.

Just focusing on the former, that would've led to much less Autopilot usage opportunity and would not have had an impact for the 2 major publicized Autopilot accidents since then, both of which happened on the type of road that L2 ADAS systems were meant for.
 

mongo

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May 3, 2017
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Michigan
I am afraid and worried that this spat is not going to end well for one party, and that wont be NTSB.

NTSB can recommend that Tesla shut off AP until it reaches Level 3, and if NHTSA follows thru on that, it will be a major hit for Tesla.

I doubt that will happen. AP, though still imperfect, is better than most other systems on the road. What can they regulate? You can have cruise and lane departure warning, but you can't actually stop the car from hitting or departing? Stopping it from handling the cases it can detect reduces safety.
 
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Krugerrand

Enough of the 🐩, back to 🐈‍⬛
Jul 13, 2012
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I have a feeling they gonna look extra hard for this particular case now.

Let them. According to their ridiculous investigative timelines, most of us will either be dead or in our Teslas with FSD capabilities by the time they are done.

It took a few hours for a member or two here to get a whole timeline on accidents and when the barrier actuator was reset/not reset, when there were barrels and other barrier types etc., etc... Give those members 12-24 months to investigate and we’ll know when every single insect was run over crossing that section of highway and where Elvis currently resides.
 

Tam

Well-Known Member
Nov 25, 2012
11,535
10,598
Visalia, CA
...
NTSB can recommend that Tesla shut off AP until it reaches Level 3, and if NHTSA follows thru on that, it will be a major hit for Tesla.

If so, NTSB needs to cite a statistic to counter Tesla's claim:

1 automotive fatality per 86 million miles in the U.S.

1 Autopilot hardware equipped automotive fatality per 320 million miles.

Autopilot hardware equipped car has 3.7 times less likely to be involved in a fatal accident.
 
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chillaban

Active Member
May 5, 2016
3,723
6,599
Bay Area
I am afraid and worried that this spat is not going to end well for one party, and that wont be NTSB.

NTSB can recommend that Tesla shut off AP until it reaches Level 3, and if NHTSA follows thru on that, it will be a major hit for Tesla.

IMO Tesla's "why are they going after us" conspiracy-victim mentality is unfounded right now, but if this is what ends up happening, that would make me more inclined to take Tesla's position.

Except for maybe Super Cruise, AP1 and AP2 are the most capable ADAS'es on the market in terms of the correctness and probability-of-collision if the driver takes zero action. Easily. If they are deemed unsafe, pretty much every ACC + LKAS system on the market would be doomed.
 
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Tam

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Nov 25, 2012
11,535
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Visalia, CA
..."why are they going after us"...

I agree that it is hard to prove that conspiracy because I haven't heard any report of fatalities from other Advanced Driver-Assistance Systems just yet.

But I think Tesla is right about NTSB's decision to start an investigation is because of News Media popularity.
 
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mongo

Well-Known Member
May 3, 2017
15,422
54,534
Michigan
IMO Tesla's "why are they going after us" conspiracy-victim mentality is unfounded right now, but if this is what ends up happening, that would make me more inclined to take Tesla's position.

Except for maybe Super Cruise, AP1 and AP2 are the most capable ADAS'es on the market in terms of the correctness and probability-of-collision if the driver takes zero action. Easily. If they are deemed unsafe, pretty much every ACC + LKAS system on the market would be doomed.

To take the logic too far (or is it?), what happens on every other car if you set cruise to 75 (or keep pedal pressed) and take your hands off the wheel? Ban them I say! (Once Tesla pickup comes out)
 

Az_Rael

Well-Known Member
Supporting Member
Jan 26, 2016
5,681
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Palmdale, CA
Tesla did the right thing - to be whipsawed into agreeing to keep results secret for a year would be a disservice to all of us Tesla owners who believe in transparency as well. We all need to know the limitations of our 'self-driving' capabilities with each software/firmware upgrade released by Tesla. NTSB would thwart that objective and keep us blindly in the dark... A very dangerous place to be... Thanks again, Elon, for doing the right thing... @SeaDoc

I am sure Tesla would have been able to make safety announcements and updates if they felt the need that didn't reference the investigation directly. They could have sent out an email to all owners reminding us to always keep our hands on the wheel and to re-iterate that AP may encounter situations in which it can't react so to remain alert while driving or something without referencing the investigation directly. Or if they needed to make a safety change in the software, they could have done that as well, also without referencing the investigation directly. So, the NTSB wasn't thwarting Tesla from releasing safety information. The NTSB was thwarting Tesla from releasing investigation information and from being able to control their own PR against the families claims. Nothing to do with safety IMHO.

If so, NTSB needs to cite a statistic to counter Tesla's claim:

1 automotive fatality per 86 million miles in the U.S.

1 Autopilot hardware equipped automotive fatality per 320 million miles.

Autopilot hardware equipped car has 3.7 times less likely to be involved in a fatal accident.

I think the actual statistic we are missing here is the rate of fatalities for non-AP Teslas. Non-AP and AP Teslas are already very safe cars compared to the entirety of the cars on the road, which includes 20 year old barely maintained vehicles, etc.

If we compare AP equipped Tesla fatality rates to Non-AP equipped Tesla fatality rates - then we could see how much AP improves safety. More similar to what the NHTSA did for their analysis after the Josh Brown incident. I wonder what those numbers are today, since it has been a while since the last update on those.
 

Tam

Well-Known Member
Nov 25, 2012
11,535
10,598
Visalia, CA
...Nothing to do with safety...

I think it's a publicity fight as the public might be influenced by ABC7 that keeps running the script of how dangerous and deadly Autopilot is over and over again!

Writing a private e-mail to owners doesn't solve that public education.

Also, writing to owners stating that the freeway impact attenuator needs to be fixed by Calstrans won't have any effect if it was not publicized by the press.

I believe Tesla disclosures have saved lives and that alone is worth the cost of being fired by NTSB.
 
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Just how many auto crashes does the NTSB investigate? Over the years my wife and I have been involved in a few, all of which were judged to not be our fault. Fortunately no one died, and no serious injury. None of these were investigated by NTSB. Only two of them had law enforcement make a report. Even the uninsured motorist who fled the scene on foot was never tracked down (suspected illegal alien). Is the NTSB investigating because a crash with a TESLA is so rare? Is it because every TESLA auto crash is big news when every other auto manufacturer builds autos that have multiple crashes every day? Something to think about.
 
Just how many auto crashes does the NTSB investigate? Over the years my wife and I have been involved in a few, all of which were judged to not be our fault. Fortunately no one died, and no serious injury. None of these were investigated by NTSB. Only two of them had law enforcement make a report. Even the uninsured motorist who fled the scene on foot was never tracked down (suspected illegal alien). Is the NTSB investigating because a crash with a TESLA is so rare? Is it because every TESLA auto crash is big news when every other auto manufacturer builds autos that have multiple crashes every day? Something to think about.
https://www.ntsb.gov/investigations/Pages/default.aspx
You can read about current investigation starting on the above page.

AND here are about 3 years of reports
https://www.ntsb.gov/investigations/AccidentReports/Pages/AccidentReports.aspx

IF you explore the NTSB website, please let us know anything you find interesting.
 
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