NTSB investigating fatal Tesla crash

The US National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) has announced that it is investigating a fatal crash involving a Tesla Model X near Mountain View, California.

In a tweet, the NTSB said: “Unclear if automated control system was active at time of crash. Issues examined include: post-crash fire, steps to make vehicle safe for removal from scene.”

Tesla has shared details of what it knows about the crash so far, although the company stressed it did not yet know what had caused the crash, as extensive damage meant it had not yet been able to retrieve the vehicle’s logs.

The company noted that the crash was so severe because a highway safety barrier had been removed or crushed in a prior accident without being replaced.

In a statement, Tesla also referred to the design of its battery packs, following reports of a post-crash fire. “Tesla battery packs are designed so that in the rare circumstance a fire occurs, it spreads slowly so that occupants have plenty of time to get out of the car,” wrote the company.

“According to witnesses, that appears to be what happened here as we understand there were no occupants still in the Model X by the time the fire could have presented a risk.”

The NTSB’s involvement, coming the week after it announced it was investigating a fatal crash involving an Uber self-driving car and a pedestrian in Arizona, is likely to raise questions about automated driving technologies.

However, it is not yet clear whether the Tesla driver’s Autopilot system was engaged at the time of the crash. The company shared data showing that Tesla owners had already driven along the same stretch of road with the technology engaged roughly 20,000 times this year.