In light of Tesla going a bit rogue and disclosing details of the fatal crash that involved Autopilot, the National Transportation Safety Board is removing Tesla as a party in the investigation.
“The NTSB took this action because Tesla violated the party agreement by releasing investigative information before it was vetted and confirmed by the NTSB,” the NTSB wrote in a press release today. “Such releases of incomplete information often lead to speculation and incorrect assumptions about the probable cause of a crash, which does a disservice to the investigative process and the traveling public.”
Losing party status means Tesla is no longer able to provide technical assistance to the NTSB. As the NTSB notes, having party status is a “privilege” that enables two-way information sharing.
“It is unfortunate that Tesla, by its actions, did not abide by the party agreement,” said NTSB Chairman Robert Sumwalt. “We decided to revoke Tesla’s party status and informed Mr. Musk in a phone call last evening and via letter today. While we understand the demand for information that parties face during an NTSB investigation, uncoordinated releases of incomplete information do not further transportation safety or serve the public interest.”
The NTSB says it’s rare to revoke party status, but that it has happened before. While Tesla is no longer an official party, the NTSB says it expects Tesla to cooperate with any future data requests.
While Tesla is no longer a party in this specific case, the company is still working with the NTSB in other investigations, like the one pertaining to a crash in Lake Forest, California and one in Culver City.
On Wednesday, Tesla provided Bloomberg with a statement implying Tesla willingly withdrew from the party agreement.
“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,” the company said in a statement to Bloomberg. “We believe in transparency, so an agreement that prevents public release of information for over a year is unacceptable.”
I’ve reached out to Tesla and will update this story as I learn more.