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

15 April 2018
NTSB says it removed Tesla from deadly crash investigation, Tesla disputes claim

The role of Autopilot is central to the investigation into the March 23 accident in which Walter Huang, of San Mateo, was killed when his Tesla crashed into a barrier between Highway 101 and Highway 85, in Mountain View.

"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 revealing those details-and effectively blaming the driver when the investigation has barely begun-Tesla violated its agreement with the NTSB, which requires all parties to keep quiet and let it do the talking. But the NTSB announced the "removal of Tesla", after the company disclosed information the agency said could taint the public understanding of what happened, in violation of the agreement. A few months later, the NTSB issued its own report, saying Tesla bears some blame for Brown's death, because its vehicle didn't do enough to ensure he watched the road. It's also refused to comment on how many alerts can be ignored before the system disengages, what version of Autopilot software was in Huang's Model X, or when the vehicle was built.

Huang's family said on Wednesday it had hired law firm Minami Tamaki LLP to explore legal options, adding the firm believed the Autopilot feature probably caused his death.

Tesla still remains a party to the ongoing investigations of the August 25, 2017, crash of a Tesla Model X in Lake Forest, California, and the January 22, crash of a Tesla Model S near Culver City, California, the NTSB pointed out.

His comments are inconsistent with Tesla's statement earlier this month, when the company said Model 3 may exceed the growth rate that Ford Motor Co (NYSE:F).exhibited with the Model T.

Agency chairman Robert Sumwalt said he had called Tesla CEO Elon Musk on Wednesday night to tell him his company was being ousted as a party to the investigation. For the official word on how to do that, we'll have to wait for the NTSB to finish its work-even without Tesla's help.

The Autopilot section on Tesla's website does state that "every driver is responsible for remaining alert and active. and must be prepared to take action at any time".

Neither Tesla nor NHTSA has released the underlying data to support the crash-rate reduction claim.

Back in July, we reported that Tesla has been working on revamping its maps and navigation system with its own maps using new open source modules from MapBox and Valhalla. Later in the day, the company it said it was removing itself from the "party agreement" with the NTSB. The company indicated that with minimum follow distances that drivers needed to be attentive to the road and ready to intervene with hands on the steering wheel. It is spending to build out its Gigafactory battery factory in Nevada, where battery module assembly issues have contributed to Model 3 delays, and also expects to build a factory in China in the near future. It was published in 2016, ten years after Tesla's original Master Plan, which previewed the subsequent launches of the Model S, Model X and Model 3, as well as its solar power products.

"We empathize with Mr. Huang's family, who are understandably facing loss and grief, but the false impression that Autopilot is unsafe will cause harm to others on the road", Tesla continued, according to The WSJ.

"It does happen, but it is rare considering how many investigations we do and how many party members we have", Knudson said.

The National Transportation Safety Board and Tesla offered clashing explanations this week for why the electric auto maker is no longer directly involved in a formal investigation of the fatal auto crash involving one of its vehicles.