U.S. regulator to send observer for Tesla probe of Model S fire

FILE PHOTO: A sign is seen outside Tesla Motors' new showroom in Manhattan's Meatpacking District in New York City, U.S., December 14, 2017. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid/File Photo

(Reuters) - The U.S. National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) will send a technical specialist to observe a Tesla Inc examination into the causes of a battery fire last Friday involving one of the electric automaker’s Model S vehicles in California, the agency said on Monday.

A spokesman for the NTSB said that observing the examination into the fire in West Hollywood will “provide the agency with an opportunity to learn more about fires in all types of battery-powered vehicles.”

The safety board is investigating four Tesla crashes since last year and looking at post-crash fire issues and the use of Autopilot.

Earlier this month, the NTSB issued a preliminary report saying the driver of a Tesla Model X car using Autopilot did not have his hands on the steering wheel in the six seconds before a fatal crash in California in March.

A spokeswoman for Tesla said in an email that the battery fire on Friday was “an extraordinarily unusual occurrence, and we are investigating the incident to find out what happened.”

She wrote that the cabin of the Model S was unaffected by the fire, allowing the driver to exit the vehicle safely.

“While our customer had time to safely exit the car, we are working to understand the cause of the fire,” she added.

Reporting by Nick Carey; Editing by David Gregorio