Tesla says it willingly withdrew from NTSB investigation

Tesla says it willingly withdrew from the party agreement with the National Transportation Safety Board, adding that the NTSB is more concerned with “press headlines than actually promoting safety,” a Tesla spokesperson told TechCrunch via email.

“Last week, in a conversation with the NTSB, we were told that if we made additional statements before their 12-24 month investigative process is complete, we would no longer be a party to the investigation agreement,” a Tesla spokesperson said in a statement to TechCrunch. “On Tuesday, we chose to withdraw from the agreement and issued a statement to correct misleading claims that had been made about Autopilot — claims which made it seem as though Autopilot creates safety problems when the opposite is true.”

This comes after the NTSB said it revoked Tesla’s party status in the investigation regarding the fatal crash involving one of Tesla’s Model X cars. The NTSB said it did so because Tesla, without permission from the NTSB, relayed information to the public regarding the investigation.

Tesla went on to note the prevalence of automotive fatalities in the United States in comparison to fatalities involving cars with Autopilot. Tesla says for every 320 million miles cars equipped with Autopilot drive, there is one fatality, including known pedestrian fatalities. That’s compared to one fatality for every 86 million miles driven for all vehicles, Tesla said.

“If you are driving a Tesla equipped with Autopilot hardware, you are 3.7 times less likely to be involved in a fatal accident and this continues to improve,” the spokesperson said.

Tesla also alleges its “clear in our conversations” with the NTSB that it cares less about safety and more about press headlines.

“Among other things, they repeatedly released partial bits of incomplete information to the media in violation of their own rules, at the same time that they were trying to prevent us from telling all the facts,” the spokesperson said. “We don’t believe this is right and we will be making an official complaint to Congress. We will also be issuing a Freedom Of Information Act request to understand the reasoning behind their focus on the safest cars in America while they ignore the cars that are the least safe.  Perhaps there is a sound rationale for this, but we cannot imagine what that could possibly be.”

Tesla also took time to note how the NTSB is an advisory body, rather than a regulatory one, and how Tesla has a “strong and positive relationship” with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA)

“When tested by NHTSA, Model S and Model X each received five stars not only overall but in every sub-category,” the Tesla spokesperson said. “This was the only time an SUV had ever scored that well. Moreover, of all the cars that NHTSA has ever tested, Model S and Model X scored as the two cars with the lowest probability of injury. There is no company that cares more about safety and the evidence speaks for itself.”

When reached for comment pertaining to Tesla’s claims, the NTSB says it stands by the press release it issued earlier and has nothing to add. Meanwhile, the NHTSA says its investigation is ongoing.

“The agency is in contact with local investigators, consistent with NHTSA’s vigilant oversight and authority over the safety of all motor vehicles and equipment,” an NHTSA spokesperson said in a statement to TechCrunch. “NHTSA is dispatching its Special Crash Investigation Team and will take action as appropriate.”

SpaceX has authorized new shares that could value it at $24B

SpaceX has authorized a new Series I round for 3 million shares in a new round that will be worth up to $507 million, according to a certificate of incorporation document filed in Delaware.

If all shares in this round are issued, the new round would value SpaceX at around $23.7 billion, according to the new filing provided by Lagniappe Labs, creator of the Prime Unicorn Index. We’ve previously reported that SpaceX was planning to raise around $500 million in a financing round led by Fidelity, helping provide a lot of liquidity for the company as it begins to ramp up its plans to grow its ambitious launch schedule. While the filing does not confirm that it has raised the full $500 million, it serves as another data point to support that the company has picked up an additional huge influx of cash. The 3 million shares are priced at $169, in the range that we previously reported mid March.

The FCC in March gave SpaceX the green light to launch a network of thousands of satellites to blanket the globe with broadband access. Each additional flight offers SpaceX an opportunity to not only prove out its efficiency as a launching company, but also that it can provide a wide array of companies with a potentially cheaper option to get equipment into orbit for purposes like providing broadband. SpaceX already runs plenty of missions to the International Space Station. SpaceX also won a $290 million contract with the U.S. Air Force to launch three GPS satellites.

SpaceX isn’t the only company that may end up providing a new generation of orbital launches, like Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin. Virgin Galactic also successfully tested its rocket-powered spacecraft for the first time since 2014 earlier this week, and while the details on that launch are still very slim it shows that there’s a wide variety of companies that see potential in figuring out a lower-cost way to get equipment into orbit.

We also previously reported that there could be a secondary offering that could also total up to $500 million in shares. That would run through special purpose vehicles, according to what we’re hearing, which would give investors an opportunity to get some liquidity in the company as it looks to remain private a little longer with the new financing.

We reached out to SpaceX for a comment and will update the story when we get back.