Federal safety regulators blamed Elon Musk of publicizing “misleading statements” about Tesla Model 3 last year. The regulators sent a cease-and-desist letter after Elon Musk, the chief executive of Tesla announced it was safer than the rest of the vehicles (Ed note: Tesla did get 5 stars, the highest, in all safety features!).
The US National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) sent a letter to Tesla, warning the company about its claims on the safety of Model 3 Sedan. The company claimed in a blog post that the vehicle had “the lowest probability of injury ever the agency experienced in its safety ratings program.” The letter was published on the legal transparency website PlainSite. According to the letter, NHTSA has also discussed the matter to the Federal Trade Commission’s Bureau of Consumer Protection to conclude if such claims amounted to “unfair or deceptive acts or practices.”
NHTSA reasoned that since the mass of a vehicle plays a pivotal role in passengers surviving crashes, therefore, this is incomparable between cars of different sizes, irrespective of the Model 3′s five-star rating. According to the document, NHTSA has also summoned Tesla to produce information on crashes relating its vehicles.
The release of the letters is the newest addition to the list of problems for Tesla, which was in hot water for few months after Musk tweeted last year in which he told he had reserved funding to make the company private. Following an investigation, Musk and the Securities and Exchange Commission settled on that Musk would pay a $20 million fine and resign from his company chairmanship. The company’s stock dipped since reaching its peak height in 2017, dropping from nearly $390 to $233.42.
Regulators and industry executives have also condemned Musk for his pompous forecasts on debuting a vehicle capable of “full self-driving” as shortly as this year, trailed by a robotaxi fleet next year, according to The Washington Post report. They believe that the plan to release the untested and unregulated technology could be harmful to the whole industry’s efforts to introduce self-driving vehicles on the road.
Previously, Tesla has confronted legal suits over its Autopilot technology, which was involved in at least three deadly crashes in the US. According to Consumer Reports in May, Tesla was presenting “what not to do on the path toward self-driving cars” through its Navigate on Autopilot feature, which it told was “far less competent” than a human driver.
With the launch of its mass-market Model 3 electric car at an online price of $40,000 in 2017, Tesla earned the status of popular choice among consumers, recording a tremendous growth in deliveries by the company in the last quarter. Model 3, together with Tesla’s luxury models, has disturbed the automotive industry, which is still trying to pace up with its own fully electric vehicles.
NHTSA awarded Tesla’s Model 3 a five-star safety ranking in every category, the highest title available, as claimed by Tesla. Similarly, in Europe, the Model 3 earned a five-star safety rating in NCAP safety assessment.
However, NHTSA said in its letter that the frontal crash test data could not conclude whether a Model 3 would do better in a real-world frontal collision with a considerably heavier SUV. Passengers are at a higher chance of surviving an accident and avoiding injury when using heavier vehicles. It is then difficult to determine that Tesla’s midsize sedan has a lower possibility of damage than a larger SUV. This could be taken as misunderstanding safety data or an intention to mislead the public or both.
As a reaction to the allegations in the NHTSA letter, Tesla remained adamant and indicated to previous statements justifying its use of the language and claiming it came up from NHTSA’s statements. Alan Prescott, Tesla’s deputy general counsel, penned down his response in a letter provided by Tesla. He said that Tesla’s blog statements are drawn on the actual test results and NHTSA’s provided calculations for determining possible risk of injury and chances of injury. He maintained that Tesla does not see a reason to cease use of their safety blog or these claims unless other car beats the Model 3 Long Range RWD’s Vehicle Safety Score and the total likelihood of injury.
The NHTSA letter highlighted a Tesla blog post called “Model 3 achieves the lowest probability of injury of any vehicle ever tested by NHTSA,” which is still on its website. However, the FTC refused to respond on whether it had started an inquiry or settled for a solution on the matter. But it affirmed that it would continue strict monitoring of the industry.
A 38-year-old apple engineer, Walter Huang, died in a fiery crash while driving his Tesla Model X SUV on Autopilot in Mountain View in March 2018, quoted the authorities . According to the authorities, Jeremy Banner, 50 years old, was killed while Autopilot was active when his Model 3 crashed with a tractor-trailer in Delray Beach.
The safety of Tesla’s Autopilot driver-assistance system is under question. The system limits cars within their tracks and carries out steering functions, among other features.