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click above for more pics of the Tesla Roadster being crash tested

Yesterday the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration approved a waiver for Tesla Motors so that its all-electric Roadster could be sold in the U.S. despite not meeting advanced federal air bag requirements. Of note, however, are some comments made by the NHTSA when the waiver was granted. The organization gave Tesla Motors the pass because it did try to meet the government's advanced air bag standards and the Roadster will, of course, have airbags, but also because the, "public interest is served by encouraging the development of fuel-efficient and alternative-fueled vehicles."

While the NHTSA may want to come off as the benevolent bureaucracy that's promoting the future of motoring by granting this waiver, the truth is that a number of automakers have received the same free pass for their high-end, low volume supercars, including Ferrari, Bugatti and even Lotus for the Elise on which the Tesla Roadster is based. Ferraris and Bugattis are hardly examples of "fuel-efficient and alternative-fueled vehicles", and if the Elise was granted a waiver for its airbags, there's no reason to withhold it from the closely related Tesla Roadster. It is true that if Tesla Motors wasn't granted the waiver, it would not be able to deliver the first sold out batch of 2008 Roadsters in the U.S. and development of its next vehicle, the all-electric White Star sedan, would be cancelled. But we think the waiver was a pretty safe bet all along. Thanks to everyone who sent in this tip!

[Source: Kansas.com via Engadget]



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    • 1 Second Ago
  • 6 Comments
      • 7 Years Ago
      Adding airbags, advanced or not, has always seemed like a band-aid fix to the fundamental problem of the steering wheel and the column that holds it, set to operate like a medieval battering ram.

      I have been developing a car from scratch, where I refuse to accept the preconceived notions that have come down to us from the early automobile days. While my beginning concern was with efficiency, I soon realized that there was an opportunity to set the right precedent in safety design. Actually, I am terrified of lawsuits. And I also am terrified of feeling guilty for every unnecessary injury.

      One feature is the elimination of the steering wheel in favor of control levers on each side of the drivers space, with a handle for each of the driver's two hands. There would be no hard structure in front of the driver, rather a deep pad would be permanently fixed in the critical space in front of the driver.

      I also eliminate side doors, rather continuous steel beams are arranged to protect occupants. You will need to look at the website http://www.miastrada.com to see pictures of how people enter this car.

      You might have noticed that I failed to mention an airbag for the right front seat. Guess why: there is no right front seat. Guess what I think of the right front seat: It is a stupid contraption of monumental proportions, possibly ranking as the world's biggest mistake. It is the biggest cause of global warming and climate change.

      I puzzle how this came about. Before the car people accepted riding singley or in tandem on a horse if they wanted to seriously get somewhere. Of course, if you wanted to drag all your possessions, a cow, and a place to sleep along with you, a Conestoga wagon was quite nifty. If the farmer wanted to take his wife to town, and make it into a social event, a carriage was nice. I guess the last requirement got us into the mess we are now in; that and Henry Ford.

      I was not the first to think of this. There were 125 makes of cycle cars, mostly appearing between 1910 and 1916, according to a book by Clymer, 'Those wonderful old cars', McGraw Hill, 1953. The emphasis was on narrow, with tandem seating being a common arrangement. 10-20 HP engines did the job.
      this would be the counterpart of the high tech, venture capital, start-up craze of today. It was called the 'Cycle car craze' by Clymer. Henry Ford is credited with doing the killing job on these companies. A far worse killing job than ever was done by GM on the electric car.

      Henry made riding in the Model-T a social event. Not presuming to challenge him, in designing the Miastrada I recognized that single seating would be an unnecessary impediment to sales, so tandem seating with a dual video system would enable yet better intimacy between driver and passenger.

      So with this tandem arrangement, it was possible to make a car that uses about one tenth the energy of the average American car to go down the road, and obviously the mileage is about ten times better. With this capability, the car would no longer be the worst offender in the energy and climate change crisis.

      And it might be reasonable to dispense with air bags completely. It hasn't happened to me, but I have been told that having an airbag blow up on you is not pleasant and that it disables the person as well. I think that there should be, first, a full attempt to use fixed padding.

      My assessment of Tesla is that they did a very good job of making a rich man's toy. It is a high performance sports car without the noise. Impressive acceleration and handling satisfy the male need to show superior power. This benefit can be enjoyed once the driver is away from traffic on an open country road. Otherwise, the driver will enjoy views of the underside of trucks and wheel wells of SUV's as I now do in my 1991 Integra.

      All this while the Tesla driver smugly and falsely believes that he represents social responsibility. He thinks that an electric car is a large accomplishment in energy efficiency. Someday there may be sufficient energy falling from the sky, solar, wind, hydro being examples of such, but it seems that the reality for many years to come in the United States, the additional electric load of electric cars will filled by coal generated power plants. Arguments rage on this subject, some being reasonable, but the often unrealized fact is that nationwide efficiency of electricity generation from fossil fuels is 34.4% (2005 data).

      For brave souls that will not be shocked by the sight of a real change, look at http://www.miastrada.com. (I have an interest in Miastrada.)
      • 7 Years Ago
      The waiver was applied for and granted on the basis of being a low volume manufacturer, not an EV company. It was no different than the waiver granted to Lotus, Ferrari, Bugatti, etc. As John points out, it isn't something we expected to be a problem, since there was a significant precedent. In terms of the impact to customers, we will advise our customers that there are risks associated with airbag deployment in the passenger seat if there are children in the seat (as was always the case before advanced, or multistage airbags, were mandated)
        • 7 Years Ago
        Are these things significantly heavier or just more expensive?
        • 7 Years Ago
        The temporary exemption was granted on the basis of economic hardship...$43 million lost so far in the project.
        Anyone wanting to read the NHTSA decision in the Federal Register can go to
        http://www.gpoaccess.gov/fr/index.html
        and search for "tesla"
      • 7 Years Ago
      what kind of waiver did the saleen S7 get since it doesnt come with airbags?