Tesla’s status as a party to its investigation of a fatal crash has reportedly been revoked by the National Transportation Safety Board. The NTSB said that revoking party status in investigations is rare, but not unprecedented.
In a statement on the matter, the NTSB wrote: “The NTSB took this action because Tesla violated the party agreement by releasing investigative information before it was vetted and confirmed by the NTSB. Such releases of incomplete information often lead to speculation and incorrect assumptions about the probable cause of a crash, which does a disservice to the investigative process and the traveling public.”
The crash being referenced took place in Mountain View, California, on March 23. A 2017 Tesla Model X with Tesla’s Autopilot systems engaged smashed into a concrete median on U.S. 101. An Apple engineer named Walter Huang was killed in the crash. A post-crash fire that complicated the emergency response.
A March 30 blog post from Tesla suggested Huang was at fault in the crash. Part of the blog post read: “In the moments before the collision, which occurred at 9:27 a.m. on Friday, March 23rd, Autopilot was engaged with the adaptive cruise control follow-distance set to minimum. The driver had received several visual and one audible hands-on warning earlier in the drive and the driver’s hands were not detected on the wheel for six seconds prior to the collision.” Tesla tells customers to keep their hands on the wheel.
Tesla maintains it withdrew from the NTSB probe. In a statement, Tesla said, “It’s been clear in our conversations with the NTSB that they’re more concerned with press headlines than actually promoting safety. Among other things, they repeatedly released partial bits of incomplete information to the media in violation of their own rules, at the same time that they were trying to prevent us from telling all the facts. We don’t believe this is right and we will be making an official complaint to Congress.”
A law firm hired by the engineer’s family has publicly stated that it believes the Autopilot feature in the Model X potentially caused Huang’s death. Minami Tamaki LLP said, “Tesla’s Autopilot feature is defective and likely caused Huang’s death, despite Tesla’s apparent attempt to blame the victim of this terrible tragedy.”