Tesla Motors alerted regulators to a fatality in one of its electric cars in partial self-driving Autopilot mode nine days after it crashed, the company said on Tuesday, defending its decision not to make the accident public before a federal investigation was announced.
Tesla learned about the crash of the Model S sedan in Florida "shortly" after the May 7 crash, and on May 16 it disclosed the incident to the government. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) on June 30 announced a probe.
The news comes as the company faces pressure on several fronts. Its bid to buy rooftop solar power company SolarCity has been questioned by investors, and over the U.S. July 4 holiday weekend, it disclosed that second-quarter vehicle production missed company targets.
Autopilot is one of the most advanced and most promoted Tesla technologies and is still in beta or test mode. That has spurred questions — including in an article by Fortune magazine — over whether the company and regulators should have informed the public earlier of the fatality.