WHAT’S BEING CLAIMED:
- A Tesla electric SUV, with its Autopilot feature engaged, crashed into a barrier on U.S. Highway 101 in Mountain View, California on March 23, 2018, killing its driver.
- Tesla posted in a blog on Friday saying that computer logs indicate driver Wei Huang was not holding the steering wheel six seconds before the SUV crashed and burst into flames.
- The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) is displeased with Tesla’s post stating it had acted preemptively by disclosing details about the latest crash.
NTSB officials are planning to release a preliminary report within weeks about the March 23 crash that involved a Tesla Model X car. The electric-car company, however, did not wait for the federal agency’s report and released the result of its own investigation.
The driver had “about five seconds and 150 meters of unobstructed view” of the barrier and a crushed crash cushion that he collided with, according to Tesla.
“The NTSB is unhappy with the release of investigative information by Tesla,” Christopher O’Neil, an NTSB spokesman, said. “The NTSB is looking into all aspects of this crash including the driver’s previous concerns about the Autopilot.”
On Sunday, The Washington Post reported the NTSB’s statement and also said that the driver’s family revealed that he had complained previously about the SUV swerving toward the median to a Tesla retailer. The company said Huang had complained about the navigation system and not about the Autopilot system.
The NTSB secures its investigations closely in the past, urging that participants follow the rules on what information they can disclose and their unwavering cooperation. The parties involved sign legal agreements detailing their responsibilities.
The agency has a record of throwing parties off of investigations when they “issue unauthorized statements or not producing information that was expected of them.” The NTSB depends on these parties to assist its investigations because the agency has a limited number of employees. It can issue a subpoena to press companies involved in investigations to supply information.
Previous Tesla accidents the NTSB has investigated are different because the data about how the vehicle was being operated can’t be accessed by the safety board’s investigators. The agency can access data from aircraft black boxes, for instance, without any help from the party being investigated because they use a common data standard.
After the NTSB’s first investigation of a Tesla accident last year, the agency called on the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, recommending that new highway vehicles should have common data standards for easy access to the data.