Tesla issues statement on fatal Model X collision, withdraws from NTSB agreement

Above Tesla Showroom Chiswick London

The reason behind the NTSB's decision is that Tesla violated the agreement of the investigation by releasing information before it was confirmed and approved by the NTSB.

In statement Thursday, Tesla accused the government agency of being "more concerned with press headlines than actually promoting safety".

It seems that Tesla and the U.S. National Transportation Safety Board haven't been seeing eye to eye lately, following the fatal crash of a Model X in California last month.

This kind of "I'm not fired, I'm quitting!" doesn't look great for any company, let alone one that's trying to deal with a public perception that its driver-assist features may be unsafe.

Tesla is pinning the fatal crash of one of its autopilot-equipped vehicles on the operator of the auto, as the family of the affected mulls over legal options.

Consumer-safety advocates and autonomous-vehicle experts criticized Tesla Inc. for issuing another statement about the death of a customer that pinned the blame on driver inattentiveness. The company said it had opted to withdraw its status as a party to the investigation, but would continue to assist authorities.

The Model Y is expected to arrive with a more advanced computer than current Tesla models, and this is expected to advance the current Tesla Autopilot technology by some margin. For a company working on the front line of autonomous driving research, those seem like very risky moves indeed.

The spokesperson said that last week, the NTSB told Tesla that if the company made additional statements about the investigation prior to its completion "we would no longer be a party to the investigation agreement". The company said vehicle logs from the accident showed no action had been taken by Huang before the crash and that he had received warnings to put his hands on the wheel. The company said the "only" explanation for the crash was "if Mr. Huang was not paying attention to the road, despite the auto providing multiple warnings to do so".

Huang's brother, Will Huang, meanwhile says that Walter Huang was a safe driver who always had his hands on the wheel, according to ABC7.

The NTSB pointed out that automakers and other companies voluntarily enter into such party agreements and that it is important to control the flow of information in order to prevent misinformation and unwarranted speculation about ongoing investigations.

Tesla in return blasted the NTSB, saying the company chose on Tuesday to withdraw from the agreement as a formal party before the agency revoked its status.

The NTSB has three pending probes into Tesla crashes. The firm said its preliminary review of the crash suggested Autopilot was defective. Tesla claims you are 3.7 times less likely to be involved in a fatal accident if you've got Autopilot (which it sells as a $5,000 option).

Earlier this week, Minami Tamaki LLP, the law firm representing Huang's widow, said it believes "Tesla's Autopilot feature is defective and likely caused Huang's death, despite Tesla's apparent attempt to blame the victim of this bad tragedy".

"Since most cars are only in use by their owner for 5% to 10% of the day, the fundamental economic utility of a true self-driving vehicle is likely to be several times that of a auto which is not", said Musk.