Forgot your password?
typodupeerror
Transportation Government Stats

NHTSA Tells Tesla To Stop Exaggerating Model S Safety Rating 284

Posted by timothy
from the all-the-kids-are-above-average dept.
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."
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

NHTSA Tells Tesla To Stop Exaggerating Model S Safety Rating

Comments Filter:
  • by Joce640k (829181) on Thursday November 21, 2013 @05:18PM (#45484947) Homepage

    My car's rating is higher than the maximum rating allowed by the NHTSA.

    • What car?
    • Re:He'll love that (Score:5, Informative)

      by LordLimecat (1103839) on Thursday November 21, 2013 @06:31PM (#45485689)

      From Tesla's website, the actual claim:

      NHTSA does not publish a star rating above 5, however safety levels better than 5 stars are captured in the overall Vehicle Safety Score (VSS) provided to manufacturers, where the Model S achieved a new combined record of 5.4 stars

      --Source [teslamotors.com]

      I can understand the NHTSA complaint (Tesla's claims could be misleading out of context), but its not like Tesla is making any false claims.

      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?

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by EvanED (569694)

        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 "guidel

      • by Dputiger (561114)

        Yes, absolutely an attempt to drum up false news about Tesla.

        Alternately, an accurate report of new guidelines released by the NHTSA YESTERDAY. As opposed to the claims and NHTSA unhappiness over the summer.

      • "A new record" is false because while the unpublished raw score for the Tesla was 5.4, the same unpublished raw score for the Ford Mustang was 6.2.

        Or maybe not. Since it's unpublished, I, you and Elon Must don't know if it's a record high or an A-.

      • Re:He'll love that (Score:5, Interesting)

        by jrumney (197329) on Thursday November 21, 2013 @08:54PM (#45486763) Homepage

        It reminds me of when the laboratories that rated sunscreens could only rate them up to SPF 15, and pretty much every sunblock on the market was exceeding that. At some point, at least in New Zealand and Australia, the government stepped in and said they couldn't advertise higher than 15, so they all became SPF15+ for a while.

  • by Midnight_Falcon (2432802) on Thursday November 21, 2013 @05:19PM (#45484971)
    Stay tuned for Elon Musk's critique of the NHTSA and long blog post detailing why the NHTSA is a bunch of corrupt scumbags and how Tesla is so awesome that it is able to get ratings above a perfect score.
    • Yeah, Musk is self-righteous and crazy intense about the PR for his companies. However, this seems like a warning that was justified, and at the same time might not have been foreseen by those making the claims, because it's kind of a technical quibble.

      • 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.

        • No, he's not correct. If he wants to go into more detail about safety than the NHTSA does, or make claims on his own, that's fine. He might (possibly) even know more about car safety than they do. What he's doing though, it pointing to the NHTSA as an authority that's made a specific claim. The NHTSA isn't willing to stand by that claim, however, so he's being misleading at best, and lying at worst.
          • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

            by Anonymous Coward

            No, he's not correct. If he wants to go into more detail about safety than the NHTSA does, or make claims on his own, that's fine.

            They are correct, you are wrong.

            "NHTSA does not publish a star rating above 5, however safety levels better than 5 stars are captured in the overall Vehicle Safety Score (VSS) provided to manufacturers, where the Model S achieved a new combined record of 5.4 stars."

            The NHTSA is pissed because you're not supposed to TELL people what the ACTUAL safety rating is.

            For example, the Tesla's VSS works out to 5.4 stars prior to rounding, another car has 4.5 stars prior to rounding. Despite being almost an entire "star" apart, both these vehicles get "5 stars" and appear to be just as safe to the consumer. The NHTSA is pissed because they don't want the public to be aware of it, because people will rightfully ignore the star ratings and demand th

    • by MiniMike (234881) on Thursday November 21, 2013 @05:53PM (#45485307)

      The next Tesla ad will claim a safety rating of 11.0 stars from the NHTSA (small print: National Highway Tesla Sales Association).

    • 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.

      • 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.

        • by tlhIngan (30335) <(ten.frow) (ta) (todhsals)> on Thursday November 21, 2013 @07:06PM (#45485959)

          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?

          Not really.

          What happens is cars are rated to the current safety rating - the reason you can score above 5 is because the number is based on the raw figures and the current weightings.

          The NHTSA records down in its database the raw numbers, then uses those numbers to calculate the safety rating based on the current weightings (from empirical data). This lets them recalculate the safety rating as need be - yesteryear's 5 stars may be this year's 3 stars, for example. Or, depending on how cars individually perform, it's possible two 5 star cars with the old rating may become a 3-star and a 4-star car.

          So you cannot compare "stars" between model years, but you can compare them with historical vehicles recalculated to new standards. After all, many old 5 star vehicles may lack the safety features present on today's modern vehicles, so they won't be 5 stars anymore in the current rating.

          The rating will go down as new model years and new tests are introduced - after all, we'd have hit 5 stars 50 years ago if the tests didn't change. The NHTSA updates its tests and ratings when too many cars are pegged - and there's a new test that apparently reflect the more common crashes that many "5 star" cars now fare poorly on.

          Next year, the 2013 Tesla Model S may drop from 5.4 to 4.3. But the 2014 Tesla Model S may still get a full 5 stars because Tesla anticipated the new tests and built the cars to withstand them appropriately.

    • Musk doesnt need a rebuttal, since (if Im reading this right) NHTSA didnt contradict his claim that the internally provided NHTSA data showed a 5.4 rating; their objection appears to be that, for advertising / marketing purposes, the "official" NHTSA numbers end at 5 and you arent supposed to quote NHTSA as assessing a higher number than that.

      Maybe Im mis-reading this, but the Tesla press release from August even said as much-- that the "public" rating was 5 stars, but the "eyes only" manufacturer assessme

      • Think level playing fields. Ford can't advertise a rating of 5.4. GM can't. Tesla can because... why?

        After that whole "My new supermegatube will do everything your high speed railway does, only cheaper - restrictions apply, supermegatube does not, actually, go to any of the locations served by high speed rail, and actually isn't going to be built anywhere near 50% of the stops" crap from Musk, I do feel the guy isn't always speaking with his honesty valve sealed properly.

        I admire what he's doing, I hop

  • by Anonymous Coward

    I guess casting the nhtsarating is not allowed.

  • Misleading (Score:5, Informative)

    by gabeman-o (325552) on Thursday November 21, 2013 @05:20PM (#45484987)

    It got a 5.4 rating, but the NHTSA guidelines only allow them to advertise a whole number.

    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by sahuxley (2617397)
      No, you're still misunderstanding. Musk is saying they got five separate ratings of 0.4 stars.
    • Re:Misleading (Score:5, Informative)

      by harvestsun (2948641) on Thursday November 21, 2013 @05:50PM (#45485275)
      I don't know why this was modded as funny, it's right out of the article:

      NHTSA does not publish a star rating above 5, however safety levels better than 5 stars are captured in the overall Vehicle Safety Score (VSS) provided to manufacturers, where the Model S achieved a new combined record of 5.4 stars.

      • Musk: Fine. Here's the new PR: "The NHTSA's vehicle safety score for the Model S is the highest ever recorded at 5.4"

        • There are lots of cars with five star crash ratings - for all we know, some of those have received a 5.2 or 5.3 or 5.39 or whatever on that particular test. But those other cars' manufacturers have always used the scoring system as intended by the NHTSA, and just listed "5".

          Musk is basically trying to make it look like there's a safety gap between his car and all the other five-star-rated cars, when there's no evidence that gap actually exists.

        • Actually, parent was quoting Musk.

          Its hillarious how few people have actually read the article.

    • Re:Misleading (Score:4, Interesting)

      by CastrTroy (595695) on Thursday November 21, 2013 @05:54PM (#45485327) Homepage
      Which cars don't have a 5 star crash rating? What's the lowest rating for being allowed on the road? Seems like the ratings are kind of useless if every car is rated with a 5. Just from clicking around on their site, I randomly selected 5-6 cars, and all of them had a 5-star overall crash rating.
  • by spirit_fingers (777604) on Thursday November 21, 2013 @05:21PM (#45485003)

    Liar liar car on fire!

  • by Tablizer (95088) on Thursday November 21, 2013 @05:23PM (#45485017) Homepage Journal

    If you like your Tesla safety rating, you can keep your Tesla safety rating.

    • by Spritzer (950539)
      That is totally misleading. Hell, it's a lie!! Tesla just notified me that I can no longer drive my car. I've been told I will have the option to buy an extremely similar car for 5 times the price, though. Can you confirm?
  • "Since we are marketing to nerds, we are using a base 12 numbering system".

  • Bad title (Score:5, Informative)

    by PureRain (231574) on Thursday November 21, 2013 @05:29PM (#45485087)

    Just to clarify, the NHTSA hasn't said anything to Tesla like the summary states. It has clarified its rating system. That is all.

    That article is written like a high schooler's blog.

  • Three month old dupe (Score:5, Informative)

    by kaleth (66639) on Thursday November 21, 2013 @05:30PM (#45485101)
  • by Dega704 (1454673) on Thursday November 21, 2013 @05:30PM (#45485107)
    Elon Musk would never have accomplished what he has if it wasn't for his rabid passion and forceful, egotistical personality. He is trying to change the status quo in an industry where many have tried and failed, and where many want Tesla to fail as well. He had best try to temper himself, though; lest he become our generation's Nikola Tesla/Howard Hughes in more ways than one.....
    • 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.

  • If safety is a good thing, and it's a good thing for consumers to prefer safer cars, why not add a decimal point or two?
    If two cars are equally qualified in the minds a specific customer - and one car is 0.1 stars higher, why let that car get more sales?

    Dude, let the free market drive safety higher! Just like EPA window stickers. Give the customer information. If Tesla really did rank 5.4, then let the other manufactures get some public shaming. Maybe they can respond to purchasing competition & catch

    • 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.

    • If Tesla really did rank 5.4, then let the other manufactures get some public shaming. Maybe they can respond to purchasing competition & catch up and make their cars safer.

      Again - since Musk is the only one who hasn't played by the rules here, why are you assuming the other five-star-rated cars are exactly 5.0? There likely have been others that scored 5.2, 5.3, or 5.39 on that particular sub-test - but their manufacturers followed NHTSA guidelines when promoting their vehicles' safety.

      You really have no evidence that the Tesla tested out as being significantly safer than those other five-star cars.

  • 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 mythosaz (572040)

      ...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.

      Because the average of a bunch of numbers clipped at 5 will never be "5 star" unless everything is over 5.

      Now, you can have a 5.2 and a 4.9 and be "5 star."

      • by Imagix (695350)
        Exactly. It also means that a car that gets 4.1 and a 5.9 is also a "5 star" car. Which is probably equally misleading.
  • Here in the USA, the grid is 68% fossil fuels [eia.gov]. So unless Tesla is including a free ZPM [wikia.com] with every purchase, "Zero Emissions" is a crock of shit, just like a 5.4 star safety rating.

    • Re: (Score:2, Troll)

      by ls671 (1122017)

      The Tesla has a 180% efficiency battery wise. You get 1.8 time the energy you put in the batteries on output. So the 68% is fossil fuel is canceled out.

      • The Tesla has a 180% efficiency battery wise. You get 1.8 time the energy you put in the batteries on output. So the 68% is fossil fuel is canceled out.

        So, either Elon Musk has figured out how to violate the laws of thermodynamics, or you have no idea what you're talking about.

        Or you forgot the </sarc> tag.

        Don't suppose you could provide a link with scientific evidence proving this claim of overunity you have made?

      • by bobbied (2522392)

        Huh? 180% efficient by getting 1.8 times the energy out than you put in? Our fuel problems are solved! Just have a few of these 180% efficient cars sitting there and charge up the first one, then charge two cars to 90% from that. Next charge two other cars to 100% from the 90% cars, leaving you with two fully charged cars and two with about half charges. Roll up two more cars and charge them from the half charged cars... Now you have three fully charged cars from just one... See where this is going?

    • 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.
      • That some people think hyperbole is a valid response is everyone's problem.

      • by bobbied (2522392) on Thursday November 21, 2013 @06:45PM (#45485789)

        When it catches fire?

        It creates emissions then...

  • by gameboyhippo (827141) on Thursday November 21, 2013 @05:42PM (#45485199) Journal

    Anyone have any explanation on how he got a 5.4? I don't think Musk would just arbitrarily post a number.

  • The Tesla volume control on the radio goes to 11.
    The Tesla safety scale goes to 5.5.
    5.4 is less than perfect.

    • by Ecuador (740021)

      No, you don't get it.
      All volume controls go to 10.
      Nigel's go to 11. They are one louder.
      Similarly, all safety ratings go to 5.
      Tesla's goes to 5.4, it is .4 safer. For example say that you are in the safest car you could find, it is all the way up to 5 stars safety rating. All the way up. But you want it a little more safer, to be able to go over the cliff, so what can you do? That's where Tesla comes, giving you that extra .4.

  • Musk must have used the wrong formula when publicizing the Tesla rating.

Uncompensated overtime? Just Say No.

Working...