Tesla to be investigated by SEC over fatal crash disclosure

12 Jul 2016

Tesla is bristling as fresh claims about crashes begin to mount up

Elon Musk’s electric carmaker Tesla is to be scrutinised by the Security and Exchange Commission (SEC) over whether it failed to disclose details about a crash that occurred while one of its cars was in autopilot mode.

Just a day after Tesla stock rose after Elon Musk tweeted about a new master plan for the future of the carmaker, news emerged that the SEC wants to know why Tesla didn’t disclose issues about autopilot in a formal regulatory filing, according to a report in The Wall Street Journal.

Controversy has raged since it emerged that Tesla owner Joshua Brown died on 7 May when his Model S collided with a large truck while crossing a highway in Florida.

It is understood that the car’s software notified Tesla of the crash and Tesla duly reported it to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

What is unclear, however, is whether Tesla’s autopilot mode was a contributing factor in the crash.

In a statement, Tesla said: “Tesla has not received any communication from the SEC regarding this issue. Our blog post last week (30 June) provided the relevant information about this issue.”

Another crash occurs that is alleged to involve autopilot

Just as the news about the investigation was revealed, claims about another crash in which autopilot was allegedly involved emerged.

On the Tesla Motors Club forum, a user claimed that a Model X vehicle driving in autopilot mode failed to detect a wood stake in the road.

“Both two people [in the] car survived,” the member known as Eresan posted. “It was late at night, Autopilot did not detect a wood stake on the road, hit more than 20 wood stakes, tire on front passenger side and lights flyed away (sic).

“The speed limit is 55, he was driving 60 on autopilot. His car is completely destroyed. The place he had accident does not have cellphone signal, it is 100 miles from the hotel. We are on a 50-people WeChat messenger group. I woke up today, saw he managed to get internet to ask people in the WeChat group to call Tesla for assistant.”

An earlier non-fatal crash also occurred on 1 July where a Model X struck a turnpike guard rail and landed on its roof after veering across several traffic lanes. In this case, the driver was charged with careless driving by Pennsylvania State police.

To date, Tesla has not been sued for product liability.

Tesla showroom image via Shutterstock

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years