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Man In Tesla Model S Fire Explains What Happened 526

Posted by samzenpus
from the burn-it-up dept.
An anonymous reader writes "The three recent Tesla fires have raised concerns with a lot of people. One person who isn't concerned, however, is Juris Shibayama, the man whose model S burned in Tennessee. He says: 'I would buy another one in a heartbeat.' From the article: 'Shibayama said that he struck a three-pronged trailer hitch in the middle lane of the interstate. He continued: "About 30-45 seconds later, there was a warning on the dashboard display saying, 'Car needs service. Car may not restart.' I continued to drive, hoping to get home. About one minute later, the message on the dashboard display read, 'Please pull over safely. Car is shutting down.'" He said he had time to remove his possessions, even though, he said: "About 5-10 seconds after getting out of the car, smoke started to come from the front underbody of the car."'"
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Man In Tesla Model S Fire Explains What Happened

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  • by Taco Cowboy (5327) on Monday November 11, 2013 @12:00AM (#45388353) Journal

    ... to include "Car is about to burst into flame"

    • by Mateorabi (108522) on Monday November 11, 2013 @12:17AM (#45388431) Homepage
      They should sample the "You have five minutes to reach minimum safe distance" ship's computer sound clip from Alien.
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Askmum (1038780)
        Rather the "this car wil self destruct in 5 seconds", free to Mission Impossible.

        On a more serious note: the fact that my car bursts into flames would not be a big consideration whether or not I'll buy the same make and model again. I know it's an unlikely event to happen again. It still is an issue that needs to be investigated though. On average, 1 in 150,000 cars in the US catch fire while in traffic. For Tesla it now stands on 1 in 6,300.
        • by Aereus (1042228) on Monday November 11, 2013 @03:09AM (#45389071)

          It sounds like he continued to drive the vehicle after the system warned him not to, though. So I would say this is user error in continuing to drive the car. (Presumably what he hit punctured part of the battery?)

          • by TapeCutter (624760) on Monday November 11, 2013 @04:20AM (#45389351) Journal
            The car said it needed servicing and "may not restart", if it were me I'd probably keep driving too. The final "Pull over, I'm shutting down" message would (in hindsight) have been a better initial response from the car but "out of warranty mode" would have been funnier.

            Also the GP has a point, all kinds of cars do burst into flames every now and then, in 35 years of driving I've seen it happen 3 times. Once to myself in a Datsun on the freeway, my brother-in-law's ford while it was parked in the driveway, both of those were oil fires. The third incident was a mate's prime mover, a large spanner came loose and fell on the battery shorting out the terminals. All three incidents happened in the 80's. The fact that the car was damaged means all bets are off, but it also means that the manufacturer will get feedback on the incident and suggestions on how to fix it. If they don't listen then often they will be "forced" to do so by legislation that could see a lead engineer jailed for manslaughter.

            Western governments are almost single-handedly responsible for the massive improvement in both car and road safety over the last 40yrs, free market competition has worked out how to put those legal requirements into a car without it looking like a 1970's Volvo. If road/car safety was left to the "invisible hand" then people would still be driving around with "DIY LPG conversions" - An 80kg LPG cylinder strapped to the roof racks of station wagons, like a torpedo waiting to be launched in the event of a frontal collision.
            • Free market competition has worked out how to put those legal requirements into a car without it looking like a 1970's Volvo.

              I beg your pardon? You mean like this? [volvo1800pictures.com]

            • by Anonymous Coward on Monday November 11, 2013 @06:48AM (#45389873)

              The Tesla needs a "Eject Core" for the battery so that the car can be saved. And yes... minimum safe distance.

              Unfortunately from the pictures I'm seeing, the battery is literately the entire underside of the car and is unlikely to be ejectable since ti would just drag the battery along the road.

            • by nukenerd (172703) on Monday November 11, 2013 @07:51AM (#45390037)

              The car said it needed servicing and "may not restart", if it were me I'd probably keep driving too.

              Only if that warning came up by itself, but this guy had just hit a serious chunk of iron in the road. I would have stopped straight away, even without the warning. Yet he carried on even after a warning as well.

              The guy is an idiot. And we are expected us to listen to him giving advice on the subject of car purchases?

              • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

                by Anonymous Coward

                This is typical of rich people. Most are pretty darn stupid.

              • by mysidia (191772)

                Only if that warning came up by itself, but this guy had just hit a serious chunk of iron in the road. I would have stopped straight away, even without the warning. Yet he carried on even after a warning as well.

                He probably expected there would be minor damage to some system.

                There should probably be a sensor to detect the body of the car, and in particular, the battery stack being pierced; tied to a safety shutdown mechanism.

              • by GuB-42 (2483988)

                I don't consider it an idiotic reaction, assuming that he drove carefully after the impact. Pulling over is not without risks and the car nearly told him to continue driving. And considering the range of the Tesla, home was certainly not that far away.
                When the car switched to a more alarming message he did pull over and left the car.
                Maybe that it wasn't the best course of action but I think that is is reasonable for an emergency reaction (everything took less than 5 minutes).

                And BTW, even if this guy is ind

            • by drinkypoo (153816) <martin.espinoza@gmail.com> on Monday November 11, 2013 @10:49AM (#45390993) Homepage Journal

              If road/car safety was left to the "invisible hand" then people would still be driving around with "DIY LPG conversions"

              If you had any idea how many DIY LPG conversions there are running around on the roads right now, you would apparently piss yourself. And besides conversions, it is hilariously common for people to do DIY propane systems on their diesels. Apparently it provides a power boost similar to a turbo, and propane is cheap these days so it's cheaper than using a turbo to burn more diesel. A grill tank goes in the bed or sometimes in a toolbox and gets connected with some more grill parts, like a grill regulator and nozzle. These systems are relatively trouble-free so long as they're installed such that the line isn't run someplace idiotic.

              As well, you can get a propane conversion for pretty much anything carbureted for about $250, not counting the fancy tanks you have to have for road use.

              I've run a 2.5 HP briggs and stratton four stroke by connecting a nipple to a camp stove (throwaway) cylinder and running a piece of 1/4 inch tubing into the carburetor. The nipple is based on a torch head that fell off, so there's a valve there. You can control motor speed by turning the valve, simple as that. The conversions use a vacuum-controlled valve, so the engine draws the fuel it needs and you control the butterfly in order to control the engine as normal. Anyone competent to turn a wrench can perform a conversion and again, there's currently significant cost savings in running propane. It's 2.50 per gallon-equivalent on one of the local reservations right now.

              • by Ol Olsoc (1175323)

                I've run a 2.5 HP briggs and stratton four stroke by connecting a nipple to a camp stove

                Kinky! Bet that hurt a lot though.

            • by swillden (191260)

              If road/car safety was left to the "invisible hand" then people would still be driving around with "DIY LPG conversions" - An 80kg LPG cylinder strapped to the roof racks of station wagons, like a torpedo waiting to be launched in the event of a frontal collision.

              Nonsense. People care about safety of their vehicles. A lot. The one thing that government regulators did that really made a difference was to establish safety testing protocols and mandate that they be applied. Vehicle safety has far outstripped the regulatory baseline requirements, because once reliable vehicle safety information was available it became a major selling point, which caused the invisible hand to get really serious about safety.

              IMO, this illustrates the most effective form of government re

      • by feral-troll (3419661) on Monday November 11, 2013 @04:15AM (#45389325)

        They should sample the "You have five minutes to reach minimum safe distance" ship's computer sound clip from Alien.

        It would be more funny if you used this unique trait of the Tesla to scare other drivers. How about this? ... there was an interview in one of those car shows on Discovery Channel with a Ford owner who wrote: "Don't tailgate me, I explode on impact!" in large letters on the rear window of her Pinto.

        • by Solandri (704621)
          For those who don't know why Ford Pintos are supposed to explode [wikipedia.org]. It's a meme which spread via TV in the 1970s that has carried over to the Internet. The problem with the car wasn't as bad as alleged. Similar to the brouhaha over Tesla fires, the incident rate wasn't statistically elevated over other cars. But once the TV comedies got on board and began making jokes about Pintos exploding when rear-ended, it was all over. That's what Tesla really has to worry about - that the car could get an undeserved
    • by msauve (701917) on Monday November 11, 2013 @12:24AM (#45388457)
      "A door is a jar," "The car is a flame," it's the same, only different.
    • by gargleblast (683147) on Monday November 11, 2013 @12:24AM (#45388461)
      I can't believe they missed such a golden opportunity. The final warning should have been "Car will now Halt and Catch Fire" [wikipedia.org].
    • by mysidia (191772)

      "Please pull over safely and evacuate the vehicle immediately."

      "Thank you for pressing the self-destruct button. This ship will self-destruct in 3 minutes"

    • "This is the captain. We have a little problem with our entry sequence, so we may experience some slight turbulence and then explode."

    • by Anonymous Coward on Monday November 11, 2013 @03:06AM (#45389065)

      On a more serious note, you should read the actual post and not just the couple sentences.

      Here's probably the most revealing item in terms of how safe the car is:

      The firemen arrived promptly and applied water to the flames. They were about to pry open the doors, so I pressed my key button and the handles presented and everything worked even though the front of the car was on fire. No flames ever reached the cabin, and nothing inside was damaged. I was even able to get my papers and pens out of the glove compartment.

      So, guy runs over hitch in the road doing 70mph, it damages the car, the car tells him to pull over, and even though it no longer accelerates it still steers and works 100% normally. Car starts smoking a few minutes later, so he sits around and watches it burn until the fire deparment shows up, and even while it's on fire it still works and doesn't even get enough heat into the passenger area to melt the cheap plastic pen in his glove box.

      If it wasn't $100k, I'd buy one tomorrow. Shit, we just had a guy in my town catch his truck on fire (leaky fuel line they think) and he pulled over, had 2nd degree burns by the time he got out of the cab, and watched his truck burn to the ground within minutes.

      • by TapeCutter (624760) on Monday November 11, 2013 @04:49AM (#45389475) Journal
        Indeed. My Datsun caught fire on the freeway in the 80's, I didn't hit anything, the car was crap (a beat up Datsun 180). It was an oil fire, thick black smoke poured through the gear stick housing and quickly filled the car. Luckily I had just enough time to pull up on the embankment before entering a long bridge on a freeway junction. It would have been a far more dangerous situation if it happened on the bridge. The fire itself was easy to put out with a rag and the emergency radiator water from the boot.

        All that, and not one fucking word from the Datsun during the whole ordeal. ;)
      • by sandytaru (1158959) on Monday November 11, 2013 @10:47AM (#45390969) Journal
        In the late eighties, my mother's Ford LTD caught on fire in the parking lot of the grocery store. She'd pulled into a spot and was about to get a cart from the rack outside when someone tapped her on the arm and said, "Ma'am, I think your car is on fire."

        Her father had been an engineer for Ford, and I think he was more heartbroken about the situation than she was.
    • by evilviper (135110)

      "Car is about to burst into flame"

      Model S needs food badly.

      Model S is about to die.

  • Well... (Score:4, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday November 11, 2013 @12:01AM (#45388359)

    At least it didn't bluescreen and lock him in the car.

    • by sabri (584428)

      At least it didn't bluescreen and lock him in the car.

      I'm waiting for a Tesla owner to name their car Christine [wikipedia.org] :)

      • Re:Well... (Score:4, Interesting)

        by TapeCutter (624760) on Monday November 11, 2013 @05:12AM (#45389543) Journal
        Loved the movie. Was in a bush town in Oz and pulled up to get petrol. I filled up but nobody was at the register so I wandered around to the "repair shop" basically a converted hayshed with room for about a dozen cars. There was only one car in the far corner, it was in showroom condition but looked strangely at home in a converted hayshed . Just as I spotted it the guy appeared from behind the shed, I said; "Stephen King fan, eh?", to which he smiled and replied "Close, Christine worshiper".
  • by Stephen Thomas Kraus Jr (3382177) on Monday November 11, 2013 @12:01AM (#45388365)
    At least the car was upbeat and friendly about its impending doom!
  • by SeaFox (739806) on Monday November 11, 2013 @12:02AM (#45388371)

    Or is he going to buy a third Tesla after his first two caught fire?

    • by msauve (701917)
      1) Buy Tesla car.
      2) Short Tesla stock.
      3) Burn Tesla car.
      4) ???
      5) Profit!
      • by karnal (22275)

        1) Buy Tesla Stock
        2) Short Tesla Car
        3) Car's on fire, there is no 3.
        4) ???
        5) Profit!

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by denmarkw00t (892627)

      Mod parent up - this same "proud Tesla owner" is not the third fire, probably the 2nd iirc. This guy had a spot on the front page right after the second fire, b/c it's "all good."

      Let's get the facts:
      - 3 of these have caught fire and have made headlines
      - Cars catch on fire
      - Trying to push headlines that make it look like Tesla is the good guy, which they really are - see above two points - only make it seem like the opposite: you don't have to massage a pubic that understands the two

  • So. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday November 11, 2013 @12:03AM (#45388375)

    Translation - when you get in a WRECK your car does odd things. I am happy this person came forward and said "had a wreckand the car even warned me to RUN!"

    Good design tesla.

  • Concert (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Impy the Impiuos Imp (442658) on Monday November 11, 2013 @12:04AM (#45388377) Journal

    > One person who isn't concertinaed

    Of course he wasn't concertinaed -- he ran over a hitch, he didn't biff a bridge abutment.

  • Did he avoid having to listen to one?
  • lp0 on fire (Score:4, Funny)

    by toygeek (473120) on Monday November 11, 2013 @12:14AM (#45388419) Homepage Journal

    ^ If ever a missed opportunity for an error message....

  • by macraig (621737) <mark.a.craigNO@SPAMgmail.com> on Monday November 11, 2013 @12:36AM (#45388531)

    What exactly is a "three-pronged trailer hitch"? Google Images doesn't seem to have a clue, and it doesn't sound very functional. How does a trailer hitch with more than one "prong"/fulcrum do anything useful?

  • by ortholattice (175065) on Monday November 11, 2013 @12:38AM (#45388551)

    A pet peeve with cars is the stupid engine light that gives no clue what the problem is. I have no idea if it's some lower-priority thing like a polution sensor slightly out of spec or something where I need to stop immediately to avoid engine damage. (I know you can buy the code readers, but I don't carry one around in my car typically.)

    So the Tesla, with all its sophistication, says 'Car needs service. Car may not restart.' WTF? They might as well replace it with an engine light to save money.

    I do agree that 'Please pull over safely. Car is shutting down.' is a little better, but not much.

  • by Snufu (1049644) on Monday November 11, 2013 @02:25AM (#45388937)

    -- Power windows
    -- Power locks
    -- Power seats
    -- Air-conditioning
    -- Automatic transmission
    -- iPod dock
    -- Quadrophonic smoke detectors
    -- Asbestos seats
    -- Sprinklers (interior/exterior)
    -- Fire axe

  • by tgd (2822) on Monday November 11, 2013 @08:52AM (#45390275)

    I used to have a classic 60's Porsche 911. They put the carburetors directly above the coil and distributor...

    We used to say, if the car wasn't on fire, you're probably out of gas...

    Of course, that was still safer than the auxiliary heat -- which sprayed burning gas directly into the hot air flow into the cabin... ensuring when you died in a horrific conflagration, at least the carbon monoxide had already dulled the pain.

  • The MATH the Media (Score:5, Informative)

    by zifferent (656342) on Monday November 11, 2013 @01:57PM (#45392807)
    So I did a little math. I know, a bad habit, but I can't help myself.
    In any case, I was curious as to the numbers behind the recent Tesla vehicle fires and how that compares to the rest of the vehicles on the road.

    So last year 21,500* Tesla vehicles where sold. To date there have been 3 fires. That makes 21500/3 equals roughly 1 fire out of 7167 vehicles. That looks pretty bad, wow. Tesla vehicles must be terrible. Right?

    For comparison, there were 194,000** vehicle fires between 2008 to 2010 or to oversimplify things 97,000 per year. And in 2008 there were roughly 256 million*** vehicles on the road.
    256000000/97000 equals about 1 fire out every 2639 roadable automobiles. Doh!

    It appears that it is almost three times as likely that any random vehicle on the road will catch fire than any random Tesla. That bears repeating. You are just about 3 times safer from dying by fire in a Tesla.

    And yet another sensationalist story that the media is getting wrong.

    * http://www.forbes.com/sites/hannahelliott/2013/11/05/tesla-up-9-as-production-hinders-growth/ [forbes.com]
    ** http://www.usfa.fema.gov/downloads/pdf/statistics/v13i11.pdf [fema.gov]
    ***http://www.rita.dot.gov/bts/sites/rita.dot.gov.bts/files/publications/national_transportation_statistics/html/table_01_11.html

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