Electric Cars

Tesla's post-crash data dump draws investigators' ire

The automaker made more information public following a fatal collision, but not everybody wanted that info out there yet.

Dean C. Smith via Twitter

Tesla has always been very forthcoming when crash investigators require data, but according to federal investigators, the automaker was a little too willing to let the public in this time around.

The National Transportation Safety Board told The Washington Post that it was "unhappy" that Tesla divulged additional information about a fatal collision involving a Tesla Model X and a highway barrier. Tesla declined to comment on the NTSB's remarks.

Tesla issued two blog posts regarding the fatal California collision, which took place on March 23. The first blog post looked at the location and attempted to pin some of the reason for the Model X's extensive damage on a modified crash attenuator, which is meant to absorb as much energy from a collision as possible before a vehicle contacts the concrete barrier.

The driver of the Model X was able to escape the vehicle before it was consumed by fire. "We have never seen this level of damage to a Model X in any other crash," Tesla said in its blog post.

Dean C. Smith via Twitter

The second blog post, the one that drew the NTSB's ire, divulged specific information about the vehicle's operating state immediately before the crash. Namely, that its semi-autonomous Autopilot system was engaged with the following distance set to its minimum, and that the driver's hands were not detected on the steering wheel for several seconds prior to the crash. The NTSB is still investigating the crash.

Autopilot is capable of holding a Tesla in its lane at speed, following curves and holding speed based on traffic. It can also change lanes in certain situations after the owner engages the turn signal. It is not a substitute for human attention, though, and the system will occasionally require the human to regain control of the vehicle. In certain situations, if the warnings are ignored repeatedly, the vehicle will prevent Autopilot from re-engaging.

Reports circulated that the owner who died in the crash had previously complained to Tesla's service team about the performance of his Autopilot system, but Tesla said that wasn't the case.

"We've been doing a thorough search of our service records and we cannot find anything suggesting that the customer ever complained to Tesla about the performance of Autopilot," a Tesla spokesperson said in an emailed statement. "There was a concern raised once about navigation not working correctly, but Autopilot's performance is unrelated to navigation."