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The National Transportation Safety Board, already "unhappy" about Tesla's decision to release information involving its Autopilot system, announced on Thursday the removal of the Palo Alto electric vehicle company as a party to an investigation that killed a San Mateo man last month. Walter Huang was driving his Tesla Model X southbound on California Route 101 when he crashed headlong into a divider that separates the left-most lane from an offramp.

"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", the NTSB said Thursday.

Bloomberg's source says the NTSB will issue a press release some time on Thursday addressing Tesla's departure. In a statement by a Tesla spokesperson, the company blamed Huang himself for his death, saying that while they "empathize" with the Huang family, the impression that the company's cars are not safe is "false" and that "the reason that other families are not on TV is because their loved ones are still alive".

"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. Participation in the party system is a privilege, which allows the sharing of investigative information with all parties that agree to the terms of the party agreement during the early fact-gathering phase of an investigation.

Musk has since said that Tesla is working at full steam to clear the delays, pushing to hit targets for 5000 cars per week, or 260,000 a year. Elon Musk said last month that Tesla does not need any more cash injections this year. We don't believe this is right and we will be making an official complaint to Congress. Tesla said "Autopilot requires the driver to be alert and have hands on the wheel".

The statement goes on to staunchly defend Tesla, and even makes a seemingly veiled swipe at the family for talking to the media about the crash.

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Neither Tesla nor NHTSA has released the underlying data to support the crash-rate reduction claim. That fire probe had not previously been reported.

This is not the first time that the NTSB has removed a party from an investigation.

It seems that the family of that man has now hired lawyers. The company has also argued that the victim in the Model X crash is exclusively responsible for the accident, with the damaged highway divider to blame for its severity - not the Model X, which apparently steered itself into the concrete divider at highway speed.

At issue is the NTSB's investigation into the fatal crash of a Tesla that was in Autopilot mode. That's compared to one fatality for every 86 million miles driven for all vehicles, Tesla said. The company stated vehicle logs from the accident revealed no action had been taken by Huang before the crash and that he got warnings to put his hands on the wheel.

But the two sides offer different explanations for the split, and the dispute between the National Transportation Safety Board and the electric carmaker could have broad implications for safety investigations and the development of partially and fully automated vehicles.

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