Published: Sat, April 14, 2018
Technology | By Russell Knight

NTSB says it removed Tesla from deadly crash investigation, Tesla disputes claim

NTSB says it removed Tesla from deadly crash investigation, Tesla disputes claim

Tesla has withdrawn from the National Transportation Safety Board's "party agreement" related to the recent fatal Model X Autopilot accident. But in a statement released April 12, the NTSB said that Tesla was, in fact, involuntarily removed because it made a decision to release information without running it by the agency first.

The NTSB's account contradicts the version of the story Tesla told overnight.

Tesla denied the claim, saying it "willingly withdrew" from the investigation and charging in a statement that the NTSB is more concerned with press headlines than actually promoting safety. The company said it "believe [s] in transparency, so an agreement that prevents public release of information for over a year is unacceptable".

In the accident, a driver using Tesla's Autopilot driver assistance system crashed into a California highway barrier.

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At the time of the fatal crash, Huang was using the Model X's Autopilot feature and his hands were not detected on the wheel in the six seconds prior to impact. Parties must agree to not release certain investigative information, however, before the NTSB concludes the inquiry.

"We're really more looking at the fire aspects", NTSB Chairman Robert Sumwalt informed Reuters, stating that the battery continued to ignite even after it was loaded onto a truck.

Tesla is blaming last month's fatal Tesla Model X vehicle crash largely on the driver, not the auto itself, according to a statement released by Tesla this week. In a statement this week to Silicon Valley television station ABC 7, for example, Tesla argued that the crash occurred because driver Walter Huang "was not paying attention to the road".

Since then, the NTSB and Tesla CEO Elon Musk have reportedly been unable to come to a formal agreement on the matter, ultimately leading to Tesla being removed from the agreement.

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In response to questions from Consumer Reports, Tesla said it releases information about crashes to correct misinformation, either from the drivers involved or from erroneous media reports. The system reminds the driver this every time it's engaged, according to the company.

The family of the Apple engineer who died in a Tesla auto crash last month reportedly has hired a law firm to "explore legal options", after believing that the carmaker's faulty technology is what led to his death.

Removals from NTSB party agreements are rare.

There was some back and forth between Tesla and the NTSB on why the electric vehicle maker was removed from the investigation and whether it had chosen to leave or not. Tesla has offered no official comment on the Model Y's production timeline.

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Musk had said: "Since most cars are only in use by their owner for 5% to 10% of the day, the fundamental economic utility of a true self-driving auto is likely to be several times that of a vehicle which is not". The only way the accident could have happened is if Huang "was not paying attention to the road, despite the vehicle providing multiple warnings to do so, "according to a statement Tesla sent April 10 to Dan Noyes, an investigative reporter with California's ABC7 News". Huang's family says he complained to Tesla service departments on multiple occasions that Autopilot had steered his vehicle on multiple occasions toward the barrier that his auto eventually crashed into.

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