Tesla crash driver's family hires law firm, doubts over autopilot

An Update on Last Week's Accident | Tesla

The war of words on Thursday between the Silicon Valley automaker run by billionaire Elon Musk and the NTSB stood in stark contrast to efforts this week by Uber Chief Executive Dara Khosrowshahi and Facebook chief Mark Zuckerberg to defuse conflicts with regulators. Tesla on Thursday defended its disclosures, saying the agreement with the NTSB "requires that we not release information about Autopilot to the public, a requirement which we believe fundamentally affects public safety negatively", a company spokesperson said.

'Tesla autopilot does not prevent all accidents - such a standard would be impossible - but it makes them much less likely to occur, ' the company said in a statement.

Being a party to an investigation allows a company to fully participate in the investigation process, sharing information with the agency and viewing information uncovered by NTSB while the investigation is still ongoing. During the same period in the previous year, the company posted ($0.69) EPS. sell-side analysts expect that Tesla will post -15.15 EPS for the current fiscal year.

As is usually the case with these kinds of incidents, Tesla is off course trying to shift blame away from itself, and in this case is placing it on the deceased driver. For example, Uber is working with the NTSB to investigate the cause of last month's fatal self-driving vehicle crash in Tempe, Arizona.

This is not the first time that the NTSB has removed a party from an investigation.

The decision follows a series of public statements made by Tesla since the March 23 fatal crash in Mountain View, Calif. that killed 38-year-old Walter Huang.

Tesla is blaming last month's fatal Tesla Model X vehicle crash largely on the driver, not the auto itself, according to a statement released by Tesla this week. Musk claimed nearly 18 months ago that the system will eventually render Tesla vehicles capable of full self-driving, and much of the value of the $50bn company is linked to views that it could be an autonomous-car pioneer.

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Whichever version is true, Tesla's falling out with the NTSB is not a good thing for the company going forward. He and Musk spoke on Friday and again on Wednesday when he told the company it was revoking its status.

The NTSB said it took this action because Tesla violated the party agreement by releasing investigative information before it was vetted and confirmed by the NTSB.

The law firm said its preliminary review suggested the autopilot feature was defective and had uncovered complaints by other Tesla drivers of navigational errors by the system. Also, the company continues to invest money in its Gigafactory battery facility.

The NTSB has not disclosed any findings. It was operating on autopilot.

In the post, they revealed that the system showed that the driver's hands were not on the wheel for up to six seconds before the collision and the vehicle's logs indicated that no action was taken, although the driver was said to have received several warnings.

In a classic "you can't fire me, I quit!" style move, Tesla told CNBC that it withdrew from the NTSB investigation.

Eye witness reports for that specific instance said that the man behind the wheel was watching a "Harry Potter" movie, and thus wasn't abiding by the advised rules to pay attention even when autopilot is in use.

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