MOUNTAIN VIEW (CBS SF) – Electric car maker Tesla is no longer a party to a National Transportation Safety Board investigation into a deadly crash involving one of its vehicles in Mountain View last month.
But the NTSB and Tesla have different versions on whose decision it was to exclude Tesla from helping out in the crash probe.
According to an NTSB statement Thursday, the decision was made after the automaker violated an agreement by releasing investigative information into the March 23rd crash involving a Model X SUV.
"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 Chairman Robert Sumwalt said.
However, Tesla maintains it withdrew from the party agreement with the NTSB on its own. "It's been clear in our conversations with the NTSB that they're more concerned with press headlines than actually promoting safety," said Tesla in a statement Thursday. "On Tuesday we chose to withdraw from the agreement and issued a statement to correct misleading claims that have been made about autopilot."
Walter Huang, a 38-year-old engineer from San Mateo, was killed when his Model X slammed into a concrete lane divider at the Highway 101 / Highway 85 interchange. Tesla revealed that the vehicle was in "Autopilot" mode at the time of the crash.
Following the crash, Tesla released a statement about the incident, claiming that Huang "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.
"The driver had about five seconds and 150 meters of unobstructed view of the concrete divider with the crushed crash attenuator, but the vehicle logs show that no action was taken," the automaker went on to say.
On Wednesday, Tesla doubled down on its assertion that Huang was at fault in the crash.
"The only way for this accident to have occurred is if Mr. Huang was not paying attention to the road, despite the car providing multiple warnings to do so," the automaker said in a statement obtained by Bloomberg News. "The fundamental premise of both moral and legal liability is a broken promise, and there was none here."
The NTSB said such releases lead to "speculation and incorrect assumptions about the probable cause of a crash" and that investigations generally take 12 to 24 months to complete.
Tesla slammed the NTSB's action Thursday and claimed the agency sent out misleading information about the Autopilot system in a statement to CNET .
"We don't believe this is right and we will be making an official complaint to Congress," the automaker said. "We will also be issuing a Freedom Of Information Act request to understand the reasoning behind their focus on the safest cars in America while they ignore the cars that are the least safe."
Meanwhile, Huang's family has hired a San Francisco-based law firm to explore potential legal options, including a possible wrongful death lawsuit.
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