By on July 12, 2016

Tesla Model S In Hero Blue, Image: Tesla

Was the fatal May crash of a Tesla Model S driving in Autopilot mode significant enough for the automaker to inform its shareholders? The Securities and Exchange Commission plans to find out.

The federal agency recently opened an investigation into Tesla to determine if the automaker broke securities laws by not notifying investors of the crash, according to the Wall Street Journal.

To reach a conclusion, the SEC needs to decide whether the May 7 crash that killed Joshua Brown on a Florida highway was a “material” event — an incident serious enough to warrant a securities filing, which would make investors aware of potential risk.

Brown died after his vehicle’s semi-autonomous Autopilot system failed to recognize a tractor-trailer crossing the highway in front of him. The radar-and-camera setup controlling the system mistook the brightly lit trailer for the surrounding sky, meaning it didn’t alert the driver or begin emergency braking.

Tesla informed the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration of the crash on May 16, but the first time investors heard of it was a June 30 blog post on the automaker’s website. (That post coincided with media reports detailing the NHTSA’s investigation into the crash.)

By late May, Tesla investigators determined that the victim’s Autopilot system contributed to the crash, but not before the company sold $2 billion of stock.

A source familiar with the matter told the WSJ that the SEC investigation is preliminary, and might not result in any action on the part of the agency.

Even before the SEC announced its probe, some critics argued the crash counted as “material.” Tesla and the publication Fortune waged an online battle over the debate, with the magazine stating the automaker should have revealed details of the crash earlier.

[Image: Tesla Motors]

Correction: An earlier version of this story stated the Tesla Autopilot system used laser and camera technology to see objects in its vicinity. Tesla vehicles do not use laser, but use radar. We’ve corrected the article to reflect this.

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25 Comments on “SEC Investigating Tesla for Failing to Notify Investors of Fatal Crash...”


  • avatar
    Ryoku75

    I feel that Teslas reached its peak at this point, its all up to the 3 to save it.

    That or people ignoring the auto pilot issues, ball joints, electric gremlins, etc…

    • 0 avatar
      heavy handle

      You mean the ball joint issue that was made up, and the electric gremlins that are by no means the exclusive domain of Tesla?

      I think that type of publicity appeals to people who aren’t in the market for Teslas. Look-up “confirmation bias.”

      • 0 avatar
        Ryoku75

        Yes that balljoint issue was totally non existant, and Tesla totally isnt threatening customers to hide this. Teslas are known to use heavy duty balljoints akin to a Kenworth.

        I suppose its normal for cars to open their doors into other cars randomly, To drive into guard rails on their own, For their touchscreens to crash thus rendering many creature comforts unusable…

        • 0 avatar
          heavy handle

          One failed lower ball joint does not constitute a pattern. I’m sure Tesla sources their ball joints from the same 4 or 5 suppliers as everyone else.

          As for electronics, it’s been part of the Tesla experience from day 1. To their credit, they do update software promptly, unlike most brands.

          • 0 avatar
            Pch101

            I would presume that the SEC’s concern is that Tesla may have sat on the story so that it would not impact the price of the 6.8 million new shares that it issued in mid-May, which raised about $1.5 billion.

            The material aspect of this is that investors may have paid less for those shares had they known about this. Without a stock sale that large, I doubt that there would be an investigation.

          • 0 avatar
            Silence

            You just said the ball joint issue was made up, then you said it’s one ball joint. What the hell is it?

          • 0 avatar
            Kenmore

            The made-up story used the one bogusly degraded ball joint as “evidence”, I think is the consensus.

        • 0 avatar
          Kyree S. Williams

          I agree that Tesla has some real quality control issues, the sort that a company inexperienced with making cars would have. But the cars themselves are such novelties and Tesla has such a strong brand image that it will likely be overlooked. Even when Mercedes-Benz or Porsche decide it is worthwhile to make a full-fledged, full-sized EV, Tesla will still prevail…because it has established itself as the premier brand for EVs, the one to have.

          • 0 avatar
            Ryoku75

            Thats something I just don’t get, people dodge American n European cars due to some 20 year old junker. And yet, newer Teslas get away with quality issues?

        • 0 avatar
          JimZ

          “Teslas are known to use heavy duty balljoints akin to a Kenworth.”

          heavy trucks don’t use ball joints, they use kingpins.

          • 0 avatar
            Ryoku75

            Bleh, there goes that joke.

          • 0 avatar
            Kenmore

            So I image search “kingpin” and I get a bunch of cartoons of a pimped-out fat bald guy in a white jacket.

          • 0 avatar
            JimZ

            en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kingpin_(automotive_part)

          • 0 avatar
            Kenmore

            Thanks, but that only got 2 pikchurrs!

            I found more, though.

            So, am I right in thinking that with a kingpin suspension all the uptake and damping of road imperfections is achieved by the core spring/axle assy, not by an articulated extension of, say, strut + balljoints?

          • 0 avatar
            JimZ

            yep. you’d use them where strength and longevity are far more important than ride quality or handling. Ford even used them on RWD pickups with the twin I-beam front end up into the ’80s or so; my ’84 F-250 had kingpins.

          • 0 avatar
            Kenmore

            Cool, thanks.

          • 0 avatar

            In the 30’s, 40’s and 50’s Chevrolet pickups and lots of Fords used kingpins. I helped my dad install new kingpins on a ’42 Mercury when I was a kid.

          • 0 avatar
            Jagboi

            MGB’s used Kingpins too, as did many of the smaller British cars of the 50’s and 60’s.

  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    The SEC should review TSLA price drops after other “bad news” events, such as the early crash/fire incidents, Model X delays, Model 3 reservation cancellations, parking lot crashes, lemon refunds, etc., and compare them to the rate of similar incidents from other mfrs.

    A major consideration is whether the Autopilot death was actually Tesla’s fault, since the system is merely Level 2 autonomous.

  • avatar
    MostlyNormal

    The Tesla system is radar and camera based, they do not have a laser sensor of any kind.

    The grownup automakers and Google are all developing real autonomous systems using LiDAR (a spinning laser), which would have easily 3D mapped a freaking tractor trailer.

    • 0 avatar
      NickS

      Given this failure, the front facing detection hardware would have to be relying on visible light, i.e. cameras.

      I think they use radar for the sides. Radar on the front wouldn’t miss a white trailer against the sun.

  • avatar
    MostlyNormal

    @NickS: I can imagine a failure mode with forward looking radar if the radar field of view is limited to hood height and below.

    • 0 avatar
      NickS

      Well, you’d expect them to tune the sensor position and orientation (which I have to admit should not be too much to exoect).

      I am quite astonished actually that they are NOT combining cameras, lidar AND radar on the front to eliminate the weaknesses inherent in any ONE of these. Even lidar has some weaknesses.

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