Published: Sun, April 15, 2018
Markets | By Erika Turner

Tesla draws rebuke for blaming autopilot death on Model X driver

Tesla draws rebuke for blaming autopilot death on Model X driver

Tesla has been removed from the National Transportation Safety Board's investigation into a fatal Autopilot accident that happened in March, the agency announced today.

"Tesla violated the party agreement by releasing investigative information before it was vetted and confirmed by the NTSB", the agency said in a statement.

However, sources told Bloomberg that it was actually the NTSB that kicked Tesla out of the investigation.

The agency was planning on issuing a statement Thursday.

Late Wednesday, Tesla said in a statement it would no longer take part in the NTSB probe because the investigation would require Tesla to not divulge information about its Autopilot feature to the public. Tesla issued the statement blaming the Huang, after his family had hired a law firm to explore legal options for them. But the NTSB said Tesla flouted the deal with the agency when it agreed to be a party. Elon Musk said last month that Tesla does not need any more cash injections this year. Among other disclosures, it also said Huang "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 before the collision". The NTSB guards the integrity of its investigations closely, demanding that participants adhere to rules about what information they can release and their expected cooperation.

That's a reference to the death of Joshua Brown, a Tesla customer who died when his Model S slammed into a truck while Autopilot was engaged. "His daily routine is to wake up every morning before everyone else to make breakfast for everyone and make coffee for Sevonne", said Will Huang, Walter's brother.

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Tesla is looking to begin production of the new Model Y SUV in November 2019, according to a new report. The lawyer said he doesn't expect to file the complaint until the NTSB wraps up its investigation.

"Tesla, which was overtaken by Apple as the largest U.S. equity short recently, is back on top of the league tables, a position it has held since March 2016", wrote Ihor Dusaniwsky, head of research at S3 Partners, as quoted by CNBC. The company continues to intend to abandon the scheme using 12-volt batteries, which now applies to all Tesla vehicles. The SUV also caught fire, though Tesla said no one was in it when that happened.

Huang's wife told ABC7 he had complained before the fatal crash that his Model X had steered toward the same highway barrier he collided with on March 23. The automaker noted that Tesla vehicles with Autopilot engaged had driven through the same area hundreds of times before without incident. Sumwalt said in 2017 that "system safeguards were lacking" and "Tesla allowed the driver to use the system outside of the environment for which it was designed and the system gave far too much leeway to the driver to divert his attention".

The Palo Alto, California, company said its vehicle logs showed Huang took no action to stop the Model X from crashing into a concrete lane divider.

The crash involving Walter Huang is now being investigated by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB). After doing a comprehensive study, NHTSA found that even the early version of Tesla Autopilot resulted in 40% fewer crashes.

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