What has Elon Musk said now?
There's no question the Tesla Model 3 has been a huge sales success for the EV automaker. That's the good news. The not-so-good news is its safety record. According to Bloomberg, the US National Highway Traffic Safety Administration sent a cease-and-desist letter to Tesla last year regarding Model 3 safety claims. It then subpoenaed Tesla for more information about several crashes after viewing documents from a nonprofit advocacy group called PlainSite, specifically regarding one fatal accident involving a Model 3 in Autopilot mode.
It all began last October 7 with a Tesla blog post claimed the Model 3 earned the lowest probability of injury of any vehicle the NHTSA ever tested. The government agency didn't agree with this because its testing procedures cannot fully verify what Tesla is claiming. Simply put, Tesla was either exaggerating or not telling the truth.
Tesla shortly thereafter responded to the NHTSA that it disagreed with the agency. "Tesla has provided consumers with fair and objective information to compare the relative safety of vehicles having 5-star overall ratings," said Al Prescott, Tesla's deputy general counsel. Turns out this is not the first time the NHTSA has taken issue with Tesla. Back in 2013, Tesla said the Model S earned a vehicle safety score of 5.4 stars, but the NHTSA doesn't rate vehicles beyond 5 stars.
The agency does not like it when Tesla "disregarded the guidelines in a manner that may lead to consumer confusion and give Tesla an unfair market advantage," wrote the NHTSA's chief counsel in a letter to the automaker. Bloomberg's report also revealed that Tesla and NHTSA representatives have been meeting on a quarterly basis to discuss ongoing potential safety issues, including Autopilot.
Last March, the two sides specifically discussed the Model 3 in Autopilot mode crash which involved a deadly collision with a semi-truck. The victim's family sued Tesla last week. Meanwhile, the Model 3 was awarded last month with a perfect five-star crash test rating from the Euro NCAP, the NHTSA's European equivalent.
"The Tesla Model 3 achieved one of the highest Safety Assist scores we have seen to date. Its Collision Avoidance Assist system is first class, with its Autonomous Emergency Braking and Forward Collision Warning systems showing high levels of performance," said its director of research. No mention was made, however, regarding Autopilot and any possible system flaws.