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NHTSA Tells Tesla To Stop Exaggerating Model S Safety Rating 284 284

cartechboy writes "There's always that kid in the class that ruins it for everyone when being graded on a curve. At the moment, that kid is Tesla and Elon Musk. Tesla's been proudly claiming the Model S is one of the safest cars in the word despite the recent fire controversy. And while it may be just that, claiming it earned 5.4 stars from NHTSA isn't pleasing the safety agency as there is no such thing as a rating higher than five. While NHTSA already released a statement indirectly to Tesla saying it doesn't release ratings higher than 5, Tesla continued to promote this fictitious rating. Now NHTSA has updated its guidelines explicitly stating safety ratings are whole numbers only and that 5 stars is the maximum advertisers can claim. If advertisers and automakers decide to disregard these rules NHTSA is threatening removal from the program or referral to state authorities for appropriate action. Basically, hey Tesla, stop making false claims."
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NHTSA Tells Tesla To Stop Exaggerating Model S Safety Rating

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  • by BitZtream (692029) on Thursday November 21, 2013 @05:34PM (#45485145)

    Because the rating system isn't accurate enough to say for sure that .1 difference is accurate. The ratings are subjective enough that whole numbers are as accurate as you can get reliably.

  • by Imagix (695350) on Thursday November 21, 2013 @05:35PM (#45485155)
    Apparently people aren't reading what's been said. Tesla's press release says: "National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has awarded the Tesla Model S a 5-star safety rating", and "NHTSA does not publish a star rating above 5". Thus Tesla is not claiming that they were assigned a 5.4 since they outright acknowledge that NHTSA doesn't publish a rating above 5. What Tesla did say is that if one were to take the individual scores that were provided by the NHTSA (which apparently includes ratings above 5, and possibly decimal as well) and average those, the resultant number would be a 5.4.
    Now what is probably getting the other manufacturers upset is that the clipping of the results at 5 means that the vehicles that just squeaked into the 5 look the same as vehicles which may have blown past the 5. If they didn't like that, why aren't the individual scores also integral and clipped at 5? Then one could not possibly claim (or even appear to claim) a number higher than 5.
    So, this whole release is trying to beat up Tesla for something they didn't say. They didn't say that the NHTSA awarded them a 5.4 rating (see the first quote). They did say: "achieved a new combined record of 5.4 stars.".
  • by FlyHelicopters (1540845) on Thursday November 21, 2013 @05:45PM (#45485219)
    Musk might even be correct, but one must always be careful around government types, they'll use your own tax dollars to smack you down and have nothing better to do.

    Sometimes you have to know when to hold 'em, know when to fold 'em, and know when to walk away.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday November 21, 2013 @05:46PM (#45485223)

    I am glad he has fire and passion. He is fighting against a lobby that spans centuries, so even if his claims might be a bit over the top, the people who want to seem him out of business are many, and are THE richest people out there.

    He is competing against the most powerful people on this planet, so it is pretty darn amazing he has done this well. He also has showed the auto industry is stagnant -- his first commercial vehicle faster than most sports cars except the high end Italian makes? Impressive. Same car using a completely new drivetrain? More impressive. Same car with zero deaths? Still more impressive.

    Elon Musk may be a bit of a blowhard, but he is actually effecting change.

    Compared to Teslas, what other electric vehicles out there can smoke even an average sports car like a Corvette? A Leaf? Maybe in free fall. A Prius. Nope. Elon Musk has made a completely new car category, something not seen since the soccer moms wanted station wagons back, but didn't want them called station wagons, so they were named crossovers.

  • Re:False? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by QuasiSteve (2042606) on Thursday November 21, 2013 @05:50PM (#45485279)

    As far as I can tell, Tesla claims - as do several news outlets - that the NHTSA also releases some other raw numbers to the manufacturers which Tesla then decided to 'combine' (whether that's adding or averaging or whatever - who knows.) to give a 5.4 .

    Really, the issue is lack of transparency - since we, the public, don't get to see those numbers. Thus we can't really give a good opinion other than "NHTSA says 5 is the maximum. THE MAXIMUM!" and all nod in agreement at the overlord's words apparently for fear of getting booted out.

    This in turn leads to gems like this:
    "No matter what, you can't say it's the safest car ever tested, just that it had the best overall test score of any vehicle tested by NHTSA." - NHTSA ( [] )

    So it had the best overall test score .. but is not necessarily the safest. But the test is on safety. So it's the best in safety.. but not necessarily the best in safety.

    Maybe while they're quibbling they could come up with a system that makes sense to themselves, the manufacturers and, most importantly, the public. If in the end that means Tesla does get a 5.4 and they want to hang on to 5 stars - well I guess they'll just have to lower the rating on a bunch of other cars.

  • by bluefoxlucid (723572) on Thursday November 21, 2013 @06:01PM (#45485409) Journal

    About 80% of the comments already seem to be talk about how the NHTSA actually did give them a 5.4, but only allows them to advertise whole numbers and nothing above 5. So... it's a technical dispute over bureaucratic assholery.

  • by NoImNotNineVolt (832851) on Thursday November 21, 2013 @06:01PM (#45485417) Homepage
    The Tesla, a vehicle, does not generate emissions.

    If you charge it with carbon-sourced electricity, the Tesla, a vehicle, still doesn't generate emissions.
    If you strap a diesel generator to the roof to run your personal electronics, the Tesla, a vehicle, still doesn't generate emissions.
    If you load up the trunk with flatulent cattle, the Tesla, a vehicle, still doesn't generate emissions.

    That some people have trouble parsing natural language is not Elon's problem.
  • by CanHasDIY (1672858) on Thursday November 21, 2013 @06:05PM (#45485467) Homepage Journal

    Liar liar car on fire!

    Paid shill?

    Person with a sense of humor. You should go find one yourself.

  • Re:Misleading (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Tailhook (98486) on Thursday November 21, 2013 @06:08PM (#45485495)

    Yet that's the actual, accurate score. I don't see why the actual score can't be reported?

    There is no analytical basis to explain exactly how 5.1 is less safe than 5.4 and the analysis makes no such claim. If the NHTSA allowed manufacturers to abuse the figures by claiming these fractions are meaningful then the rating system would lose credibility. Ultimately manufacturers might game the system to amplify a meaningless fraction.

    Tesla had this explained to them and Tesla ignored it. Now the NHTSA has had to get official on their asses and tell them to stop. This is Tesla's own fault, whether the fanbois like it or not.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday November 21, 2013 @06:30PM (#45485681)

    How many supplies have _you_ delivered to the ISS?

  • Re:He'll love that (Score:3, Insightful)

    by EvanED (569694) <> on Thursday November 21, 2013 @06:41PM (#45485755)

    Also, I recall this claim / story being about 3 months old at this point, and I believe NHTSA complained around the same time. Is slashdot seriously that far behind, or (as I suspect) is this an attempt to generate additional controversy and angst due to the other Tesla stories in the news?

    Neither. (Well, it could be the latter.)

    Rather, it is new action by NHTSA. "Complaining" is a lot different from saying "we will stop accrediting your cars". The former is old news. The latter is, well, news. (The "guidelines" were released yesterday.)

  • by EvanED (569694) <> on Thursday November 21, 2013 @06:47PM (#45485807)

    So... it's a technical dispute over bureaucratic assholery.

    To play devil's advocate for a second, measurements like the safety ratings inherently have error to them. For something like car safety, is a 5.4 really better than a 5.3, or was that just a quirk of the particular tests they did, and the 5.3 would be safer on the road?

    Look at it from the NHTSA's perspective: if you think that Tesla's advertising is making claims that aren't particularly supportable because of margins of error like that and they're using your data to do it (and in the process saying essentially "NHTSA says we're the safest car on the road" when you don't want to make that claim), I think you'd be well within the realm of reasonableness to make them stop it.

  • Re:Misleading (Score:5, Insightful)

    by FatLittleMonkey (1341387) on Friday November 22, 2013 @02:53AM (#45488499)

    The NHTSA doesn't want manufacturers to optimise for the particular suite of sample accident scenarios to gain an extra 0.1 score and beat their rivals, because that would not mean that the real-world safety was improved and might even mean that safety declined slightly in non-tested accident scenarios. By rounding the scores it eliminates the motivation for this pointless effort,

    If that were true, they wouldn't give the precise VSS scores to the manufacturers, just a "where you failed" review for individual tests. In the scenario Mysidia described (4.4 versus 4.6), there's every reason for a manufacturer to want to sneak above that .5 mark, in order to get a "NHTSA 5-Star Rating! * * * * *". If you were a manufacturer, wouldn't you give up a few percent of real-world safety for that extra star (by sneaking from 4.4 to 4.6)? Say by enlarging the rear pillars to cheaply improve your inverted-drop roof-crush score (your area of lowest performance) in spite of loss of visibility it causes (and thus increased real-world accidents), rather than actually improving roof-crush performance through proper structural changes. Or sacrificing your top score in roll-over stability by adding or removing elements to improve your very low-scoring rear collision survival test. Whereas if you weren't given a VSS score for each test, you would only know that the review says your rear-collision survivability sucks, and you'd have to work to improve it without reducing safety in other areas (because you wouldn't know where you exceeded the tests and thus have margin to sacrifice.) The current system clearly encourages manufacturers to "build to the test" at the expense of real-world safety.

  • by gordo3000 (785698) on Friday November 22, 2013 @03:32AM (#45488621)

    you really don't know much about high performance cars do you? The last tesla roadster time I saw was 3.7 seconds, with a quarter mile time around 12 seconds. This isn't faster than the best italian cars. This is slower than basically every high performance car on the road, including several american, Japanese, and German cars that provide far higher performance at that price. Tesla now, has a lot of very cool things going for it. And it's performance compared to general cars is respectable, but don't imagine it would hold up well against the best.

    And by the way, if you are actually interested in high performance, it would do you some good to do some research. Basically all the italian cars are now all show for 2-3x the price of far superior performing Japanese(GT-R) and American(ZR1 or Viper) cars on proper tracks, not just 0-60 and quarter mile times.

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