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Wall Street Journal / Tech

Tesla Executive Leaves for Alphabet Self-Driving-Car Unit Waymo

Matthew Schwall, the director of field performance engineering at Tesla and the company’s main technical contact with U.S. safety investigators, joined the Alphabet self-driving-car unit.

Matthew Schwall, a senior Tesla Inc. executive and the company’s main technical contact with U.S. safety investigators, has left the company for Alphabet Inc.’s Waymo, marking the second executive departure from Tesla in recent days.

A senior Tesla Inc. TSLA -2.71% executive, who was the company’s main technical contact with U.S. safety investigators, has left for rival Waymo LLC, according to people familiar the decision.

Matthew Schwall, who had been the director of field performance engineering at Tesla, exited the company as the National Transportation Safety Board has been investigating multiple crashes involving the electric vehicles. Mr. Schwall’s exit coincides with Tesla’s announcement Friday that its engineering chief, Doug Field, was taking a leave of absence.

Mr. Schwall began at Waymo last Monday, where he joined the company’s safety team led by former National Highway Traffic Safety Administration Deputy Administrator Ron Medford, according to a person familiar with the move. The former Tesla executive will work on a variety of self-driving car safety issues in his new role, the person said.

Mr. Schwall couldn’t be reached for comment, though a person familiar with his move said it was unrelated to issues Tesla is dealing with regarding Autopilot. Tesla didn’t respond to a request to comment. Waymo confirmed Mr. Schwall has begun working for the Alphabet Inc. GOOGL -1.07% unit.

The former Tesla executive joined the auto maker nearly four years ago. According to his LinkedIn biography, Mr. Schwall served as the “primary technical contact” at Tesla with safety regulation agencies including the NTSB and the NHTSA, the regulatory body that oversees the auto industry.

In April, the NTSB said it kicked Tesla off the team probing a fatal crash of a Model X sport-utility vehicle south of San Francisco in late March. The agency asserted the auto maker violated a formal agreement when it released detailed information about the crash before government investigators had vetted it.

Tesla said at the time that it withdrew from the probe and disclosed that Autopilot, the vehicle’s driver assistance system, was engaged before the collision with a highway barrier, and the company blamed the driver for not taking control of the car in time.

This week, the NTSB opened its fourth investigation into a crash involving a Tesla vehicle after a Model S sedan veered off the road in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. The agency has said it was initially reviewing the emergency response to the vehicle’s battery fire that occurred after the crash. Tesla has said it hadn’t retrieved the vehicle logs from the car but that it appeared Autopilot wasn’t engaged.

It also emerged this week that the batteries in the Model X that crashed on March 23 near San Francisco reignited twice later that day at the storage yard and again six days later, according to a memo from the suburb’s fire department. The memo was earlier reported on by KTVU-TV in the San Francisco area.

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