NTSB probing California Tesla crash, fire

Alan Levin

The U.S. National Transportation Safety Board is sending two investigators to examine issues raised by a Tesla Inc. crash in California.

In this Friday March 23, 2018 photo provided by KTVU, emergency personnel work a the scene where a Tesla electric SUV crashed into a barrier on U.S. Highway 101 in Mountain View, Calif.

The Tesla Model X struck a highway barrier March 23 near Mountain View and caught fire, prompting hours of closed freeway lanes as firefighters tried to determine whether it was safe to move the vehicle and its damaged lithium-ion battery packs, according to the San Jose Mercury News.

The safety board will examine the post-crash fire and steps needed to make the vehicle safe to remove from an accident scene, the agency said in a tweet Tuesday. It’s unclear whether the Tesla’s partially autonomous driving system, known as Autopilot, was engaged at the time of the crash, the NTSB said.

“We have been deeply saddened by this accident, and we have offered our full cooperation to authorities as we work to establish the facts of the incident,” Tesla said in an emailed statement.

Tesla fell by as much as 4.7 percent, and traded at $290.26 at 12:28 p.m. in New York trading.

The investigation is the second this year involving Tesla by the NTSB, which opens only a handful of highway cases each year. The agency is also examining a Jan. 22 accident in Los Angeles in which a Tesla Model S rammed into the rear of a fire truck parked on a freeway. In that case, the driver told authorities on the scene it was operating under Autopilot.

Tesla Model X

Last September, the NTSB concluded that Tesla’s Autopilot was a contributing factor in a 2016 fatal crash in Florida. The driver of that car had been using the car’s automatic steering function for a prolonged period and didn’t stop when a semi-truck made a left turn in front of him.