"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 agency said in a statement on Thursday.
Contrary to the NTSB's version of events, Tesla issued a statement where it said it decided itself to withdraw earlier this week as the NTSB was allegedly throttling its ability to share information before the procedure ended.
Tesla Inc. withdrew from the U.S. National Transportation Safety Board's investigation of a fatal accident involving one of its vehicles, an unusual move that followed public statements by the company blaming the driver and breaching the agency's protocols.
Tesla, nonetheless, appeared to hold Huang answerable for the crash. Tesla has given suppliers scant details about the program and had not provided a production time frame, but has now indicated the vehicle would begin to be built at its Fremont, California, plant in November of next year, the two sources with knowledge of the supply chain said.
Tesla's argument is that it believes the NTSB process is simply too slow, and said that it chose to pull out of the party agreement. When I visited Tesla's headquarters for a Model S test drive previous year, the spokeswoman made a point of walking me through the various safety warnings a driver sees both before and during Autopilot use. For a company working on the front line of autonomous driving research, those seem like very risky moves indeed.
In the accident, a driver using Tesla's Autopilot driver assistance system crashed into a California highway barrier.
But this week, Tesla responded to a local television appearance by Huang's family saying the "only" explanation for the crash was that he "was not paying attention to the road, despite the auto providing multiple warnings to do so". Even though its marketing materials feature the automatic system, Tesla's owners manual tells buyers that they are required to keep their hands on the wheel at all times before activating the system.
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.
"Just because a driver does something stupid doesn't mean they - or others who are truly blameless - should be condemned to an otherwise preventable death", said Bryant Walker Smith, a professor at the University of South Carolina's School of Law, who studies driverless-car regulations. Tesla has said it warns drivers that they are always responsible for the safe operation of the vehicle.
Today, the NTSB announced it kicked Tesla off the team looking into what happened, and how to stop it recurring.
Tesla shares were down 1.3% to $297.07 at 12:58 in NY after falling by as much as 2.4% following Bloomberg's report. Tesla says for every 320 million miles cars equipped with Autopilot drive, there is one fatality, including known pedestrian fatalities.
The agency previously faulted Tesla in a 2016 fatal crash in Florida in which Autopilot was engaged.
It's Tesla's responsibility to provide adequate safeguards against driver misuse of Autopilot, including by sending visual and audible warnings when the system needs a human to take back over, Chase said. And Walter Huang's wife, Sevonne Huang, said that Walter had complained about the Tesla Autopilot steering toward the same barrier on several occasions, ABC7 said.