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U.S. probes Tesla vehicle fires as company vows ‘full investigation’

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A US government agency said Tuesday it was investigating fires in Tesla electric vehicles, as the company ordered modifications aimed at reducing what it called a negligible risk.

The move by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration came after Tesla requested such a probe, saying it wanted to quash any “false perception about the safety of electric cars.”

The NHTSA said in a statement it “has opened a formal investigation to determine if a safety defect exists in certain Tesla Model S vehicles.”

The investigation “was prompted by recent incidents in Washington State and Tennessee that resulted in battery fires due to undercarriage strikes with roadway debris,? according to the statement, emailed to AFP.

Documents posted on the NHTSA website said the agency will “examine the potential risks associated with undercarriage strikes.”

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Just ahead of the news, Tesla founder Elon Musk said in a blog post that “there is no safer car on the road than the Model S,” but said the company would make changes to reduce fire risk.

“We have rolled out an over-the-air update to the air suspension that will result in greater ground clearance at highway speeds,” Musk said.

“To be clear, this is about reducing the chances of underbody impact damage, not improving safety. The theoretical probability of a fire injury is already vanishingly small and the actual number to date is zero.”

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Musk also said he was asking for a “full investigation as soon as possible into the fire incidents” by the US safety agency.

“While we think it is highly unlikely, if something is discovered that would result in a material improvement in occupant fire safety, we will immediately apply that change to new cars and offer it as a free retrofit to all existing cars. ”

He added that “the incidence of fires in the Model S is far lower than combustion cars and that there have been no resulting injuries,” but said such a probe would reassure customers.

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“There is a larger issue at stake: if a false perception about the safety of electric cars is allowed to linger, it will delay the advent of sustainable transport and increase the risk of global climate change, with potentially disastrous consequences worldwide,” Musk wrote.

Musk also said that “to reinforce how strongly we feel about the low risk of fire in our cars, we will be amending our warranty policy to cover damage due to a fire, even if due to driver error.”

This will be valid “unless a Model S owner actively tries to destroy the car,” he said.

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Tesla — whose $75,000 marquee model has been wildly successful, prompting a runup in its share price — has seen its image hurt by a video of one of the vehicles going up in flames on a street near Seattle, Washington.

Another fire was reported by a Tesla owner in Tennessee.

Tesla, created in 2003 by Elon Musk, a co-founder of PayPal and SpaceX, saw its stock price surge earlier this year to give it a market value of more than $20 billion.

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The stock has skidded by some 30 percent from its highs. On Tuesday, Tesla traded up 3.7 percent at $126.09.

Deutsche Bank analyst Dan Galves maintained a positive outlook on Tesla, saying he believed the company will not be seriously impacted by the federal review.

“Tesla has already proposed a remedy,” Galves said in a note to clients.

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“This is a typical automaker strategy to pre-empt a proposed NHTSA solution by proposing its own solution. This remedy would be very benign in terms of production disruption and cost.”

[Image via Agence France-Presse]


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Newly revealed video shows Trump and Jeffrey Epstein ogling cheerleaders at Mar-A-Lago party

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Newly revealed video recorded in 1992 shows Donald Trump and Jeffrey Epstein ogling NFL cheerleaders at a party held at the future president's Mar-A-Lago club.

The video recorded by NBC and broadcast Wednesday by MSNBC shows Trump, then a celebrity businessman, dancing with dozens of cheerleaders for the Buffalo Bills and Miami Dolphins, and then greeting Epstein and two other men.

Trump and the accused pedophile Epstein are then seen pointing toward various women and commenting on their looks, although it's not always clear what they're saying.

"She's hot," Trump says about one woman, and then leans in to say something that makes Epstein double over with laughter.

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‘Clear and present racism’: MSNBC’s Morning Joe and Mika say Kellyanne Conway should have been ‘fired on the spot’ for slurring reporter

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MSNBC's Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski were astonished by Kellyanne Conway's response to a reporter asking about President Donald Trump's racist attacks on four first-year lawmakers.

The White House senior adviser asked Breakfast Media White House correspondent Andrew Feinberg, who is Jewish, about his ethnicity after he asked Conway what countries Trump was telling the Democratic congresswomen to return.

"I won't draw any parallels with any fascist countries, but what happened yesterday in a press gaggle has nothing to do with the United States of America," Scarborough said, "and in any other administration over the past 240 years, a person that did what Kellyanne Conway did yesterday would have been fired on the spot. By the time she left the press gaggle and went back into the White House, they would have already packed up her belongings and would have told her leave by the back door and never talk to us again."

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Elon Musk shows off progress on brain-machine interface

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Futurist entrepreneur Elon Musk late Tuesday revealed his secretive Neuralink startup is making progress on an interface linking brains with computers, and said they hope to begin testing on people next year.

Musk has long contended that a neural lace meshing minds with machines is vital if people are going to avoid being so outpaced by artificial intelligence that, under the best of circumstances, humans would be akin to "house cats."

Musk and members of the Neuralink team laid out progress they have made on their mission at an event held in San Francisco to recruit talent in software, robotics, neuroscience and more.

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