Let's just say it was not a friendly chat about some of Tesla's blog posts.
Tesla CEO Elon Musk is known for taking a firm stand when the situation calls. In short, he does not like criticism, especially when he deems it to be unfair. According to Bloomberg, Musk recently hung up the phone on National Transportation Safety Board chairman Robert Sumwalt after telling Musk Tesla blog posts blaming "the driver of a Model X for a fatal crash had gone too far." Following Musk's alleged behavior, Sumwalt decided to remove Tesla's representatives off the investigation.
Not surprisingly, it was Sumwalt himself who acknowledged the testy phone call took place. "Best I can remember, he hung up on us," he told those in attendance at the International Society of Air Safety Investigators' Mid-Atlantic Regional Chapter dinner last week. Apparently, the NTSB had previously warned Tesla to stop doing blog posts blaming the now deceased driver of the Model X that crashed while on Autopilot into a freeway divider on a California highway on March 23. Tesla was claiming that its Autopilot system actually makes a vehicle safer, claiming that "for every 320 million miles cars equipped with Autopilot drive, there is one fatality, including known pedestrian fatalities.
"That's compared to one fatality for every 86 million miles driven for all vehicles." Tesla believes the NTSB is more interested in generating news headlines rather than promoting safety, according to a company spokesman in a previous email to TechCrunch. Perhaps the agency is, but was Musk right to hang up the board's chairman? Tesla's defenders and NTSB critics in general will undoubtedly take Musk's side, but you still gotta wonder whether his approach – even if he's proven right – could actually harm the company in the long run? At the moment, the NTSB is still investigating the cause of the battery fire that broke out when the Model X crashed. It later expanded the investigation into possible issues with the Autopilot system.