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NTSB Boots Tesla From Investigation Into Fatal Autopilot Crash (theverge.com) 160

The National Transportation Safety Board has removed Tesla from the investigation into a fatal Autopilot accident that occurred in March. The NTSB says it took the action because Tesla had released "investigative information before it was vetted and confirmed by" the agency. "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," the agency writes. The Verge reports: The NTSB's account contradicts Tesla's version of the story. In a statement, the automaker says it decided to remove itself from the investigation on Tuesday because of the NTSB was restricting it from sharing information before the probe ends. The company also accuses the NTSB of being duplicitous, arguing that the agency has released statements about the crash at the same time that it told Tesla not to. "It's been clear in our conversations with the NTSB that they're more concerned with press headlines than actually promoting safety," a spokesperson for the company says. "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 company also said it will issue "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." The full letter send to Musk from the NTSB can be seen here.

NTSB Boots Tesla From Investigation Into Fatal Autopilot Crash

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  • by JoeyRox ( 2711699 ) on Thursday April 12, 2018 @07:38PM (#56427901)
    The company also accuses the NTSB of being duplicitous, arguing that the agency has released statements about the crash at the same time that it told Tesla not to

    That's how the NTSB operates - it releases preliminary information as it sees fits, but waits until their investigation is complete before making a final determination. It's their investigation - Tesla is only an invited guest, used as a technical resource, the same as Boeing for airplane crashes. You never hear Boeing releasing important accident details before the NTSB does.
    • by darkain ( 749283 )

      You also don't see consumers purchasing Boeing airplanes...

      • You also don't see consumers purchasing Boeing airplanes...

        Yet hundreds of people can die in a single plane crash so I don't see what your point is. In both instances the purpose of the investigation is to find the cause and determine what can be done to prevent it from happening again, which can include recalls.
        • ..or a decision that the technology isn't mature enough to use on public roads yet.
          • by gnick ( 1211984 )

            ...the technology isn't mature enough to use on public roads yet.

            You mean cars? Those things are more dangerous than guns [motherjones.com].

            • I'd be interested to see those stats normalized for ownership levels and time of use.
              • by gnick ( 1211984 )

                It would have been better for me to say:

                Cars are dangerous whether they have autopilot or not. The only way to guarantee safety is to keep all cars off public roads. They kill more people than guns.

                Saying that cars are "more dangerous" than guns misrepresents the situation.

      • Uh. A lot of people buy Boeing aircraft. Just because you can't buy one doesn't mean other peolple can't. They have a whol class of aircraft (business) meant just for that.

      • Large Corporations do.
      • It happens
        http://cdn2.hubspot.net/hub/66... [hubspot.net]

    • by ShanghaiBill ( 739463 ) on Thursday April 12, 2018 @08:21PM (#56428109)

      That's how the NTSB operates - it releases preliminary information as it sees fits

      ... and that is ok, because unlike Tesla, NTSB has no incentive to twist the facts to fit their corporate PR agenda.

      I am a Tesla owner, and normally a Tesla fanboi, but they have recently been acting like jerks. One of their customers was killed. They should be focused on fixing the issues rather than shifting blame.

      • Re: (Score:1, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward
        So an IQ test before allowing a sale? If the problem is idiots, then they really can't fix it and not sorting the blame quickly leads to people decrying their product's safety.
        • by ShanghaiBill ( 739463 ) on Thursday April 12, 2018 @09:37PM (#56428381)

          So an IQ test before allowing a sale? .

          Do you have a citation that IQ correlated with safe driving?

          I have a high IQ, and I tend to daydream a lot. My hands may be on the wheel, and my eyes on the road, but my mind is busy elsewhere.

          When SDCs are finally available, I will be first in line.

          • Do you have a blood alcohol level of 1.8 and text while you are daydreaming?
          • Two identical cars from the NUMI plant in Fremont that Tesla took over, the Toyota Corolla and the Chevy Nova (later Geo Prizm). The Corolla had a noticeably lower driver death rate per miles driven.

            This indeed that "the nut behind the wheel" is perhaps a more critical safety component than seatbelts or stopping distance or crumple zones.

            Do you suppose high IQ people were purchasing the Corolla and driving safer? Or do you suppose high IQ people were in the Nova because it was hundreds of dollars che

          • I have a high IQ, and I don't think I'm a particularly good driver. I got my latest car with all the safety features I could get, and I leave them on.


        • If the problem is idiots

          That's the problem, we don't know that. Tesla said so.

          I'm not sure I totally trust the NTSB either, so I'm happy to have two points of view.

  • by Pinky's Brain ( 1158667 ) on Thursday April 12, 2018 @07:41PM (#56427917)

    People want to look away from the road for minutes at a time and Tesla sells drivers that ability. This is adding more to their bottom line than the fact their cars are electric. Break assist and lane wander warnings would accomplish the same safety features autopilot does, without crashing into firetrucks and lane dividers. If they actually get forced to make autopilot work that way, they will lose a ton of customers though. Not something they could survive, currently.

    This is why Tesla is running scared.

    • Re: (Score:1, Troll)

      by Xenx ( 2211586 )
      Heaven forbid we actually hold drivers accountable for their actions behind the wheel. If the driver isn't paying attention when they're supposed to be, it is the driver's fault.
      • by fluffernutter ( 1411889 ) on Thursday April 12, 2018 @07:55PM (#56427997)
        You're absolutely right, no one should be enabling 'Autopilot' in a Tesla, ever, because it goes against defensive driving techniques.
      • It is not the driver's fault for buying a defective product with false advertising, this a fault of the manufacturer. However now that we all know it is a defective product, knowingly using said defective product is NOW the fault of the driver. Hmm, can't be long now until a lawyer initiates a class action suit.
      • by Anonymous Coward

        Heaven forbid we actually hold drivers accountable for their actions behind the wheel. If the driver isn't paying attention when they're supposed to be, it is the driver's fault.

        "The Tesla Autopilot! Keep your hands on the wheel, steer and watch the road. It does the rest!"

    • by rhazz ( 2853871 )

      People want to look away from the road for minutes at a time and Tesla sells drivers that ability. This is adding more to their bottom line than the fact their cars are electric.

      Bullshit. I want a Tesla and while AutoPilot is an interesting feature it doesn't register as a buying factor. Mainly I want a quality electric car and I want to reward one of the very few car companies that is driving electric car adoption. There are many reasons why people would want a Tesla.

    • People want to look away from the road for minutes at a time and Tesla sells drivers that ability. This is adding more to their bottom line than the fact their cars are electric. Break assist and lane wander warnings would accomplish the same safety features autopilot does, without crashing into firetrucks and lane dividers. If they actually get forced to make autopilot work that way, they will lose a ton of customers though. Not something they could survive, currently.

      This is why Tesla is running scared.

      Well, maybe you should talk with Tesla owners like me.

      Autopilot has saved my life already a few times. While it is being sold with the promise of constant feature improvements, I think very few owners are interpreting the capabilities of the system wrong. Fatalities will keep on occurring, and the AI Tesla now deploys will and has learned from previous accidents to benefit all current owners. Obviously its very sad for everybody involved if an accident happens, but with traditional systems without autopilo

      • Autopilot with only break/steering assist to prevent collision and lane departure warning would be safer than what you have now. But you don't want to be safer, you want to be able to not look at the road.

        It's not in our interest to cooperate with you in that desire though, because the next firetruck a Tesla runs into might have a fireman standing next to it. It's just a matter of time before someone like you is watching his phone relying on the car to "save" your life while murdering some road worker or co

    • Break assist

      I think you've nailed the very definition of the current generation of autopilot software. Now if only Tesla owners could figure it out.

  • not buying it (Score:5, Interesting)

    by AlanBDee ( 2261976 ) on Thursday April 12, 2018 @07:50PM (#56427971)

    "It's been clear in our conversations with the NTSB that they're more concerned with press headlines than actually promoting safety," a spokesperson for the company says.

    Tesla has a lot more at risk depending on what those headlines say. I'm not surprised that they wanted to be the first to put out favorable information. I'm a fan of Tesla but when I read things like this I lose respect for them.

    • I'm a fan of Tesla but when I read things like this I lose respect for them.

      I don't. What a large company achieves and the image is must keep up are two different things. If you take it all together the only companies you will ever have respect for are those crushed by a corrupt corporate world.

      I've been around long enough to know that not everything is as the media says, not everything is as the company press release says, and not everything is as the "independent" investigators says, but all the while knowing that if they don't say what they do they end up crucified for it.

      I resp

      • "not everything is as the "independent" investigators says"

        Are you suggesting that the NTSB has some hidden agenda? That they would waste time roasting a relatively small company over a single incident? These guys have regularly held corporate feet to the fire over accidents large and small at huge companies like Boeing and Airbus.

        They don't give a crap about Tesla or self driving cars. As usual, they want to find out what happened and how to prevent it in the future. The NTSB doesn't

        • Are you suggesting that the NTSB has some hidden agenda?

          Not at all. What I'm suggesting is that we live in a world of poor quality control. You don't need to have a hidden agenda to produce braindead stupid results, or to do poor science.

          I was commenting in a very general case that nothing anyone says can be taken at face value anymore, either through malice, political motivations, or through stupidity. No comment at all on the quality of the investigation at hand. That itself remains to be seen.

          If you want a specific case specifically about the NTSB you can loo

  • They do it the old way

    They don't release anything until a conclusion has been reached

    I prefer realtime, incremental data

    • by bloodhawk ( 813939 ) on Thursday April 12, 2018 @08:11PM (#56428083)
      You may prefer it, but that method has proven to be very bad for the consuming public. The majority are not capable of looking at the data with an unbiased eye or without jumping to conclusions or making assumptions.
    • by quantaman ( 517394 ) on Thursday April 12, 2018 @08:21PM (#56428107)

      They do it the old way

      They don't release anything until a conclusion has been reached

      I prefer realtime, incremental data

      Except they do release some interim data, that's the "double standard" Musk is complaining about.

      In reality I agree with the NTSB here.

      The NTSB saying absolutely nothing means that media speculation and rumours take over. Releasing a few facts means you can keep the reporting fairly accurate and grounded while you work on the full report.

      Musk's problem is he's trying to release preliminary information in order to spin press coverage, it's not surprising that they gave him the boot.

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward

        Except they do release some interim data, that's the "double standard" Musk is complaining about.

        There's a BIG difference. Musk want's to release his data the way he wants it presented.

        This is coming at a bad time for Tesla. It needs cash to stay afloat and any bad press is gonna scare away people to put more money down the Tesla sink hole.

        Musk is on high damage control and he is gonna try to spin it the best way possible.

        The fact is that he oversold the "Autopilot" feature and it's coming to bite him.

      • Yeah, like they fake news-ed about the Volt they crashed with a fully charged battery (they drain the gas tank on petrol cars first) then stored upside down in a junkyard shed till it caught fire - after any occupant would have starved to death....duh, and then headlined "electric car catches fire in crash testing".
        I'm sure Elon isn't the least bit worried they'll screw him like that....I put flame decals on my Volt for humor, but...
        • A tank full of gasoline fumes is much more dangerous than a tank full of gas. That's the right way to test, in the most dangerous condition.

          • They don't test with a tank full of fumes. The fuel is replaced with a non-flammable dyed fluid that matches the density of gasoline in the tank and fuel lines so they can clearly see if any fuel system damage results from the crash, and where the fuel ends up.

            • mod parent up.

              I didn't know that. So we should charge the Volt with fake electricity before crash testing it? Suggestions please on a stamped self addressed envelope.

    • I prefer realtime, incremental data

      That might lead to wrong conclusions as the data is not realtime and incomplete. Take for example Swiss Air Flight 111 [wikipedia.org]. The ultimate cause of the crash as a fire caused by the IFE system. The pilots radioed to ATC that there was an "odor" in the cockpit and they attempted to locate the source while being diverted to land.

      To this day, some conspiracy theorists believe that a thermite bomb was the "real" cause because a person with no airplane accident experience has promoted it.

  • Spin Dr (Score:5, Insightful)

    by fluffernutter ( 1411889 ) on Thursday April 12, 2018 @07:54PM (#56427987)
    Musk tried to spin it in his favor, like he always does, but this time he got called on it.
    • Musk tried to spin it in his favor, like he always does...

      Why wouldn't he? Why wouldn't anyone?

      • by Megol ( 3135005 )

        Some of us want to be honest and expect others to be too.

      • Because he looks like a liar and more concerned with image than the investigation. By all mean claim the NTSB isn't concerned about safety *eye roll*
      • Why wouldn't he? Why wouldn't anyone?

        Of course he would. That's why the best thing he could do is just shut up and not say anything until the NTSB finishes their investigation.

  • I thought the headline meant they booted up the actual car from the crash to go through the computer.
    • I thought the headline meant they booted up the actual car from the crash to go through the computer.

      That was my first parsing too. By booting it "into the fatal crash", I thought they replayed the sensor data and recreated the same failure that caused the fatality.

      Alas, that would have been much a much more interesting story.

  • by 140Mandak262Jamuna ( 970587 ) on Thursday April 12, 2018 @08:25PM (#56428121) Journal
    Lawyers are circling Tesla. Deep pockets, arrogant company...

    They killed all the small private aircraft companies that made small planes with the active help of NTSB. Boeing liked small pesky competitors being killed off.

    • by SlaveToTheGrind ( 546262 ) on Thursday April 12, 2018 @09:35PM (#56428371)

      They killed all the small private aircraft companies that made small planes with the active help of NTSB.

      Baloney. Here's a list that includes nearly five dozen [aopa.org] small private aircraft companies that make small planes.

      Boeing liked small pesky competitors being killed off.

      Not only are the above companies not "killed off," they're not even competitors given that Boeing doesn't make small planes. (Unless you somehow consider private versions of Boeing's 7x7 models [boeing.com] "small.")

      • by Cederic ( 9623 )

        I yearn the wealth to be able to say, "Only a couple of us, lets take the small one today" and walk over to my 777.

        • Is there any reason to allow anyone to accumulate that much wealth?

          • by Cederic ( 9623 )

            I think I'd be perfectly comfortable with having that level of wealth.

            I mean, I'm already that many orders of magnitude ahead of the average villager in botswana and I don't send all my belongings over there.

          • I laughed when I saw the picture of the 747 business jet on the linked site because that's just plain absurd. Then I did a search, and yes, they've sold one (and no, it's not Air Force One in case you are wondering).

            Go big or go home, I guess.

      • by DanDD ( 1857066 )

        They did kill the industry, by influencing FAA regulations to make commercial operations with small airplanes and small operators all but impossible.

        Have you taken an Uber or Lyft airplane trip yet? Why is that?

        Yes, astronomically expensive Cessnas and Mooneys are still made, but they are only used in a dwindling market of increasingly specialized and deep pocket applications.

    • Lawyers did not kill the private small plane industry. Less people are getting pilot certificates and there is a glut of older planes on the market---and many of those older planes will outlive their new owners.

  • It's not exactly open [electrek.co]. The NTSB has to change that. If we don't demand transparency, we will always get the runaround. It's a law of nature.

  • How things change (Score:3, Interesting)

    by AlanObject ( 3603453 ) on Thursday April 12, 2018 @09:15PM (#56428289)

    Once upon a time Tesla used to brag about how great their relationship was with the NTSB. That was when they were getting their "highest safety rating ever" awards. They used to claim they sent data to the NTSB before it was even asked for.

    I guess those times have changed.

    If Musk is correct in that the NTSB is releasing data in violation of their own rules then he has a right to bitch about it. Does anyone here know if he is correct?

    At the same time I am sure that Musk/Tesla has caused the NTSB concern with their amped up PR efforts. Telsa has to respect that the NTSB can and should control the flow of information.

    My guess is Musk is very sensitive to this due to the rampant bias the media has shown against Tesla at every opportunity. Sure they have fanbois but there is no question there is a significant demographic of keyboard warriors panting and slavering to get the goods on Tesla. You can see a number of them right here in this thread.

    I wouldn't say it is the level of Hillary Clinton hatred but it is there. You still find people thinking Telsa's wheels are falling off all the time and fires every week. Just like you have people convinced Hillary is running a child sex slave ring. It is the nature of the beast.

  • This is an old story now [slashdot.org]. Tesla repeatedly creates shit storms with regulators and critics [consumerreports.org]. Tesla expects to be the special, exempted exception to every rule and requires every outcome and finding to be in Tesla's favor, lest the offender be subjected to the mud slinging we see here. This scene in particular smacks of desperation; Tesla is finding it difficult to maintain the reality distortion field where it's ok for their "autopilot" operating in broad daylight to bury its passengers into a highway div

  • by little1973 ( 467075 ) on Friday April 13, 2018 @02:17AM (#56429323)

    Shouldn't be the first and foremost use case of an 'autopilot' not to crash into any unmoving object on the road in front of the vehicle?

    If an 'autopilot' cannot do that, it is useless.

  • Sigh. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by ledow ( 319597 ) on Friday April 13, 2018 @08:06AM (#56430123) Homepage

    "The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) is an independent U.S. government investigative agency responsible for civil transportation accident investigation."

    And Tesla is a company. That sells cars. Which have crashed.

    One of those is qualified, able, permitted, the people who helped form the legislation, and trusted to give out limited early information that won't be contradicted by later findings and has no political, financial or other interest in anything other than the truth of how the accidents occur.

    The other isn't. It's a company selling cars.

    STFU and keep your head down, Tesla, or it might hurt badly when it's discovered that it WAS the fault of the car, and that you've just been trying to cover it up.

    Be open but be co-operative. "We believe..." not "well, obviously, it can't have been us" before anyone's even had a chance to look.

    Because if there's one organisation that can take every vehicle you make off the road, and thus bankrupt you overnight for failing to comply with its own regulations, it's the NTSB.

    It's like Boeing being belligerent to the FAA etc. and interfering with a plane crash investigation.

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