By CCN.com: Elon Musk, the CEO of embattled electric vehicle giant Tesla, believes that self-driving cars will propel the company to obscene heights. But the National Transportation Safety Board’s (NTSB) latest investigation into a Tesla Model 3 crash suggests that Musk is far from realizing his dreams, and that report is taking a toll on Tesla stock.
The NTSB’s investigation found that Tesla’s Autopilot system was engaged for 10 seconds before a Model 3 fatally crashed into a semitrailer on March 1.
“The driver engaged the Autopilot about 10 seconds before the collision. From less than 8 seconds before the crash to the time of impact, the vehicle did not detect the driver’s hands on the steering wheel. Preliminary vehicle data show that the Tesla was traveling about 68 mph when it struck the semitrailer. Neither the preliminary data nor the videos indicate that the driver or the ADAS executed evasive maneuvers.”
This is not the first instance where Tesla’s acclaimed self-driving system has been involved in a fatal crash. An Apple engineer passed away last year after his Model X drove into a traffic barrier while Autopilot was engaged.
Three years ago, a Tesla Model S driver was killed after crashing into a tractor-trailer while utilizing the famed Autopilot system that’s supposed to help Elon Musk’s company hit a $500 billion valuation.
Critics placed the blame squarely at the feet of Autopilot.
“This system can’t dependably navigate common road situations on its own and fails to keep the driver engaged exactly when needed most,” said David Friedman, a vice president for advocacy at Consumer Reports.
Nevertheless, Tesla doubled down on the safety of its Autopilot system, issuing the following retort:
“Tesla drivers have logged more than one billion miles with Autopilot engaged, and our data shows that, when used properly by an attentive driver who is prepared to take control at all times, drivers supported by Autopilot are safer than those operating without assistance.”
The company added :
“[The driver] immediately removed his hands from the wheel. Autopilot had not been used at any other time during that drive.”
If it’s the case that Autopilot cannot be used safely if drivers take their hands off the wheel, Elon Musk needs to tone down his rhetoric about deploying 1 million robotaxis by 2020 and focus on making Tesla’s self-driving system safer and more efficient.
The billionaire Tesla CEO claims that the company is “vastly ahead” of others in the self-driving space. But the latest incident gives us more proof that its autonomous driving system is “zillions of miles” away from achieving Musk’s lofty goals. This reputation could dent sales of Tesla’s cars and send the stock price lower.
Speaking of Tesla stock, it fell 4.32% on Friday, likely in response to the NTSB’s worrisome report.
But instead of offering investors a sober outlook and fixing the company’s problems, Elon Musk continues to try to win over the market’s confidence by touting a self-driving system that still requires drivers to keep their hands on the wheel.
That’s not the right way to go, and Musk’s quest for fame and love of rhetoric will come at a huge cost if Autopilot’s inability to keep drivers engaged isn’t sorted out — human lives and shareholder money.