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

Dan Noyes Image
Thursday, April 12, 2018
NTSB removes Tesla from deadly crash investigation, Tesla disputes claim
The National Transportation Safety Board says it has kicked Tesla off its investigation in a deadly crash in Mountain View last month.

MOUNTAIN VIEW, Calif. (KGO) -- The National Transportation Safety Board says it has kicked Tesla off its investigation into a deadly crash in Mountain View last month.

Thursday's announcement comes two days after Tesla issued a statement to the I-Team's Dan Noyes blaming the driver, Walter Huang, for what happened.

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The 38-year-old died March 23 in a fiery Tesla crash in Mountain View on his way to work. His Model X was on Autopilot.

In a statement to ABC7 News the NTSB says it "took action because Tesla violated the party agreement by releasing investigative information before it was vetted and confirmed by the NTSB."

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Tesla also issued a statement: "Today, Tesla withdrew from the party agreement with the NTSB because it requires that we not release information about Autopilot to the public, a requirement which we believe fundamentally affects public safety negatively. We believe in transparency, so an agreement that prevents public release of information for over a year is unacceptable. Even though we won't be a formal party, we will continue to provide technical assistance to the NTSB."

In a statement, a Tesla spokesperson also said:

"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. On Tuesday, we chose to withdraw from the agreement and issued a statement to correct misleading claims that had been made about Autopilot - claims which made it seem as though Autopilot creates safety problems when the opposite is true. In the US, there is one automotive fatality every 86 million miles across all vehicles. For Tesla, there is one fatality, including known pedestrian fatalities, every 320 million miles in vehicles equipped with Autopilot hardware. If you are driving a Tesla equipped with Autopilot hardware, you are 3.7 times less likely to be involved in a fatal accident and this continues to improve.

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. 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. Perhaps there is a sound rationale for this, but we cannot imagine what that could possibly be.

Something the public may not be aware of is that the NTSB is not a regulatory body, it is an advisory body. The regulatory body for the automotive industry in the US is the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) with whom we have a strong and positive relationship. After doing a comprehensive study, NHTSA found that even the early version of Tesla Autopilot resulted in 40% fewer crashes. Autopilot has improved substantially since then.

When tested by NHTSA, Model S and Model X each received five stars not only overall but in every sub-category. This was the only time an SUV had ever scored that well. Moreover, of all the cars that NHTSA has ever tested, Model S and Model X scored as the two cars with the lowest probability of injury. There is no company that cares more about safety and the evidence speaks for itself."

Click here for full coverage on the Tesla crash by ABC7 News and the I-Team.

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VIDEO: Fiery Tesla crash kills driver in Mountain View

A 38-year-old man was killed when his Tesla crashed and caught on fire in Mountain View.