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Tesla says it informed government of crash involving Autopilot before its huge stock sale

TechCrunch TechCrunch 5/07/2016 Connie Loizos

Tesla says it told regulators about the May 7th crash involving one of its electric cars in self-driving Autopilot mode nine days after the incident, adding that there was nothing unusual in either that delay or its decision to keep quiet about the incident before a federal investigation was publicly announced last Thursday.

Tesla says the company itself was informed of the accident “shortly” after it took place.

Tesla’s statement, issued late this afternoon, seems to be a direct response to a Fortune article published earlier today that notes the enormous stock sale that Tesla announced on May 18.

On May 18, eleven days after [Tesla owner Joshua] Brown died, Tesla and CEO Elon Musk, in combination (roughly three parts Tesla, one part Musk), sold more than $2 billion of Tesla stock in a public offering at a price of $215 per share—and did it without ever having released a word about the crash.

To put things baldly, Tesla and Musk did not disclose the very material fact that a man had died while using an auto-pilot technology that Tesla had marketed vigorously as safe and important to its customers.

When Fortune sought comment from Tesla CEO Elon Musk, he first replied that he didn’t think the fact of the crash was “material to the value of Tesla” and therefore did not need to be disclosed at the time of Tesla’s stock sale. He reportedly continued, via email for Fortune:

Indeed, if anyone bothered to do the math (obviously, you did not) they would realize that of the over 1M auto deaths per year worldwide, approximately half a million people would have been saved if the Tesla autopilot was universally available. Please, take 5 mins and do the bloody math before you write an article that misleads the public.

In this afternoon’s statement, Tesla it had disclosed the incident to the government by May 16.

Asked by Reuters why Tesla didn’t also disclose the accident to the public before that share sale, the company sent the outlet the following statement:

“Tesla does not find it necessary, nor does any automaker, to share the details of every accident that occur in a Tesla vehicle. More than a million people die globally every year in car accidents, but automakers do not disclose each of these accidents to investors, let alone before those investigations are complete and without regard to what the results of those investigations end up being.”

It remains to be seen whether Brown’s family will ultimately sue Tesla over the accident, which took place in Williston, Fla., when the roof of Brown’s black 2015 Tesla Model S was torn off after a tractor-trailer turned at an intersection; Brown’s car passed under its trailer.

In its public disclosure last Thursday, the company offered its condolences to Brown’s family without naming him, writing in a post that:

The customer who died in this crash had a loving family and we are beyond saddened by their loss. He was a friend to Tesla and the broader EV community, a person who spent his life focused on innovation and the promise of technology and who believed strongly in Tesla’s mission. We would like to extend our deepest sympathies to his family and friends.

Tesla also revealed over the holiday weekend that its has missed its delivery and production goals for the second quarter in a row.

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