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RightNation.US: Fatal Tesla highway crash Friday 03/23/18 - RightNation.US

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Fatal Tesla highway crash Friday 03/23/18

On Friday morning 03/23/18, on US-101 in California, a Tesla Model-X crashed into a highway barrier "at freeway speeds". The Tesla caught fire and was struck by two other vehicles. The driver, Wei Huang, 38, was pulled from the wreckage by other motorists but later succumbed to his injuries. (Early article by NBC Bay Area)

Although the blunt-end barrier was protected by an impact attenuator, the device had apparently been flattened by a prior accident and had not yet been replaced. The front of the car was catastrophically damaged.

An earlier article (sorry, lost bookmark) said that both the NHTSA and NTSB announced they would be investigating this accident. Now this from the NTSB.

Originally, Tesla could not retrieve "black box" data from the car. (I think this can be done remotely via uplink but the transceiver was damaged.) When Tesla finally did retrieve the data, they angered the NTSB by publishing it without consulting them:


"In each of our investigations involving a Tesla vehicle, Tesla has been extremely cooperative on assisting with the vehicle data," the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) said on Sunday. "However, the NTSB is unhappy with the release of investigative information by Tesla."

Tesla CEO Elon Musk responded:


Lot of respect for NTSB, but NHTSA regulates cars, not NTSB, which is an advisory body. Tesla releases critical crash data affecting public safety immediately & always will. To do otherwise would be unsafe.

— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) April 2, 2018

Since it is the responsibility of the NTSB to investigate accidents involving transport, Musk's response does not seem to address the "release of investigative information" complaint.

Note: Although the NTSB is best known for investigating all civil aeronautic accidents in the US, their purview includes all forms of transportation: Aeronautic, automotive (including trucking), marine, rail, and pipeline.

Musk might be a little antsy due to dimming outlook:

  • A recall.
  • Badly missed production targets for the Tesla Model-3.
  • Potential cash crunch due to the above plus:
  • More than $1-billion in bonds due over the next year.
  • Moody and S&P warning of further downgrades to Tesla's debt rating.
  • Plummeting stock price due to the recent "tech dip" but also attributable to the accident investigations.
  • Possible legislative/regulatory risk to to technologies such as Tesla's "Autopilot".

Prematurely releasing accident information may have been an innocent oversight. I think it can be argued that Musk/Tesla tried to exercise some spin control by "getting ahead of the story" here.

Finally, the driver's family has claimed that he made several complaints to Tesla about the operation of the "Autopilot" in his car. Tesla responded that "there had been 'a concern' raised about the car's navigation not working properly, but 'Autopilot's performance is unrelated to navigation.'

I think that comment by the Tesla spokesperson is unintentionally poignant because it highlights the difference between an autonomous vehicle and the driver-assist technologies currently available. Think about it: In a driverless car, you don't sit in the back seat calling out: "Turn right here, then left at the next light". You make your destination known and the car does the rest.

Conversely, although driver-assist can help keep you in lane, adjust your cruise-control speed, and even jam on the brakes in certain situations, it DOES NOT exit the highway for you or "turn left on Third Street". IOW: YOU are still driving!

I know; in everything I've written about these technologies, I keep coming back to the same point: Do not surrender your responsibilities as a driver to convenience technology. Used properly (I.E.: Attentive Driver), these technologies can indeed make driving both safer and less tiring. But if you try to leverage these into a pseudo-autonomous vehicle, then you'd be MUCH safer not getting behind the wheel at all.

3 Comments On This Entry

I don't know, i think it's good that the foremost developers of electrical vehicle's and automated vehicle's are based in the US, Musk is a visionary entrepeneur with guts doing good things for the USA imho.

As for such accidents, in the end its more about numbers and percentage's i think. My ethics proffesor once told me a case of a car produced in the USA that had significant design flaws so that it would blow up from time to time. The company had to pay a lot of dammage's for that, but crucialy the cost of the dammage's was far less than the profit they had on it, so they kept producing the car even if from time to time some people would be blown up by it. Pitty i forgot the model of it,i will look it up.
What sucks is that I agree with Johannes.

It's not necessarily where you or I would go as "Small Biz". It's DEFINITLTY where "Big Biz" will go. It's why I distrust "Big Business" as much as I distrust "Big Government". The two are philosophically one and the same.
I agree about Musk although his showmanship sometimes rubs me the wrong way. Since his constituents are clients and investors instead of voters, he’s at least more accountable than empty-promise politicians.

You may be thinking of the Pinto (AKA: the “Ford Exploder”) which had a poor (above the rear bumper), gas-filler design that could spill/spray fuel all over a rear-impact accident scene. This ultimately led to side-of-the-car filler designs (and other improvements) but it took public outrage to make it happen.

Although I recognize the overlap betwixt Big Business and Big Government, I think their motivations are different: Big Business is all about profits whereas Big Government is more about control and special interests (although that may have a profit angle as well).
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