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Tesla's "primary technical contact" with the FBI members has just gone to Waymo



Enlarge / Tesla boss Elon Musk in 2014.

Tesla boss Matthew Schwall has left the company for rival Waymo, reported the Wall Street Journal on Saturday. According to his LinkedIn page, Schwall has been with Tesla since 2014 and serves as "Tesla's first technical contact for security agencies such as NHTSA and NTSB."

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration sets car safety rules while the National Transportation Safety Board focuses on investigating accidents. Smoldering comes at a time of growing tensions between NTSB and Tesla due to an autopilot collision ̵

1; and shortly thereafter, NHTSA downplayed its own 2017 findings, which seemed to confirm the autopilot's safety record.

This could be a coincidence, according to ] The Wall Street Journal . "One person who was familiar with his movement said that it had nothing to do with the issues Tesla was dealing with about autopilots," reports Journal . But Tesla's increasingly troubling relationship with federal agencies must have occurred to Schwall as he considered accepting a new job at Waymo or keeping his position at Tesla.

Tesla and the government officials were not always at eye level. 19659006] Gush was Tesla's connection to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration during the agency's investigation into the death of Tesla customer Josh Brown in Florida in 2016. Autopilot was hired during the accident, and Gush was the author of Tesla's August 2016 letter with data about the performance of autopilot throughout the Tesla fleet.

Using these data, NHTSA reported in 2017 that serious crashes were activated by 40 percent after Autopilot's autopilot dropped feature. Tesla was delighted; The company cites this finding twice in the wake of Walter Huang's autopilot-related death at Mountain View in March this year.

But critics have questioned the rigor of the finding. They pointed out that another driver assistance technology – automatic emergency braking – was activated several months before Autosteer and could be the real reason that the accidents declined. And they pressured NHTSA to publish the data underlying the finding so that independent experts could reproduce it.

Earlier this month, NHTSA threw Tesla under the bus. In a statement to Ars Technica and other media, the agency stated that it had not assessed "the effectiveness" of Autopilot and merely made a "superficial comparison" to decide whether further investigation was needed. The statement will make it difficult for Tesla to continue quoting the number in the future.

Tesla has had a frosty relationship with NTSB in recent months. NTSB offers automakers the opportunity to participate in investigations with their vehicles. This gives them access to information that the NTSB collects before it becomes available to the public. In return, the agency requires car manufacturers to not release information about an accident during an ongoing investigation.

But Tesla has abided by these rules in Walter Huang's case. In a blog post a week after the accident, Tesla reported that "the driver received several visual and audible hands-on warnings earlier in the ride, and the driver's hands were not recognized on the steering wheel for six seconds before the crash." [19659003] A few weeks later, Tesla issued a media statement arguing that "the only way for this accident is if Mr. Huang does not pay attention to the road."

NTSB responded by driving Tesla out of the boat the Huang investigation. When chairman Robert Sumwalt Musk called to inform him about the decision, Musk hung him up.

We imagine that Musk's confrontational dealings with federal officials puts subordinates like Schwall in a difficult position. Undoubtedly, other factors contributed to Schwall's decision to accept a new position at Waymo. But not to worry about being caught in the crossfire between Musk and the government officials, Waymo may have liked.

The news of Schwall's departure came a day later The Wall Street Journal reported that Doug Field, one of Tesla's most talented engineers, took a one-week break from the firm. Last month, Tesla lost her third autopilot boss in 18 months.


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