The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) said it has removed Tesla as a party to the NTSB’s investigation of the March 23 fatal crash of a 2017 Tesla Model X near Mountain View, Calif.
The agency said it booted Tesla because the automaker “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 agency added.
For decades, the NTSB has used the party system as part of its investigative process, and offers party status to organizations that can provide technical assistance, according to the agency. The NTSB called the system “a privilege [that] allows the sharing of investigative information with all parties that agree to the terms of the party agreement during the early fact-gathering phase of an investigation.”
Tesla, however, has been blogging about the March 23 crash, using the forum to defend its Autopilot technology
“It is unfortunate that Tesla, by its actions, did not abide by the party agreement,” NTSB Chairman Robert Sumwalt said on April 12. “We decided to revoke Tesla’s party status and informed Mr. [Elon] Musk in a phone call last evening and via letter today. While we understand the demand for information that parties face during an NTSB investigation, uncoordinated releases of incomplete information do not further transportation safety or serve the public interest.”
NTSB noted that its investigations generally take 12 to 24 months to complete.
While rare, the NTSB has revoked party status in other investigations. In 2009, the NTSB revoked the party status of the National Air Traffic Controllers Association in the investigation of a midair collision over the Hudson River. In 2014, the agency revoked the party status of both the Independent Pilots Association and UPS were revoked during the investigation of the crash of UPS Flight 1354 in Birmingham, Ala.
“There is nothing in the party agreement that prevents a company from enacting swift and effective measures to counter a threat to public safety,” said Sumwalt. “We continue to encourage Tesla to take actions on the safety recommendations issued as a result of our investigation of the 2016 Williston, Florida, crash.”
The NTSB said it expects Tesla’s cooperation with data requests in the investigation of the Mountain View crash. Tesla remains a party to the ongoing investigations of the Aug. 25, 2017, crash of a Tesla Model X in Lake Forest, Calif., and the Jan. 22, 2018, crash of a Tesla Model S near Culver City, Calif., according to the agency.
Family Considering Legal Action
The family of Walter Huang, who died in the March 23 Tesla crash, has hired the Minami Tamaki law firm to explore their legal options, the law firm announced.
The law firm said it “believes Tesla’s Autopilot feature is defective and likely caused Huang’s death.”
“Mrs. Huang lost her husband, and two children lost their father,” said B. Mark Fong, a partner at San Francisco-based Minami Tamaki. “The family wants to investigate this incident and help ensure that this tragedy does not happen to other consumers who buy semi-autonomous vehicles. Our goal as the family’s attorneys is to protect public safety, by ensuring the technology behind semi-autonomous cars is safe before it is released on the roads, and its risks are not misrepresented to the public.”
Huang is survived by his wife of 10 years, Sevonne, and their son and daughter, ages 3 and 6, respectively.