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Wednesday, June 21, 2023

Schumer launches ‘all hands on deck’ push to regulate AI in keynote address

Schumer launches ‘all hands on deck’ push to regulate AI in keynote address

“The Senate leader’s remarks are poised to trigger a wave of legislative activity

Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) holds a news conference after passage of the Fiscal Responsibility Act on June 1. (Elizabeth Frantz for The Washington Post) 

Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) laid out his early vision for regulating artificial intelligence in a keynote address Wednesday morning, kicking lawmakers’ efforts to both cultivate and control the development of AI tools like ChatGPT into high gear.

Delivering his most expansive remarks on the topic since the recent explosion of generative AI tools in Silicon Valley, Schumer unveiled a “new process” for fielding input from industry leaders, academics and advocates and called on lawmakers advance legislation that “encourages, not stifles, innovation” while ensuring the technology is deployed “safely." 

“Congress must join the AI revolution,” Schumer said at an event hosted by a D.C.-based think tank, asking lawmakers to act with both urgency and “humility” in tackling the technology.

The high-profile speech is expected to trigger a wave of legislative activity on Capitol Hill, where some lawmakers have called for swift action to check the rapid spread of AI across U.S. industries but where the pace of negotiations massively trails the European Union, which last week advanced a sprawling AI billafter years of discussions.

Schumer’s push represents one of the most significant efforts to craft new tech regulations led by leadership on Capitol Hill, where lawmakers have struggled for years to advance rules on data privacy, competition and other major legislative areas. His status as the highest-ranking Democratic lawmaker in Washington lends the effort added heft and could help lawmakers overcome political hurdles that have bogged down previous talks.

As part of the effort, Schumer said that he has called on the Senate’s Democratic committee leaders, including the chairs of key panels with oversight over commerce, homeland security and competition, to cooperate with their Republican counterparts to “get working” on bipartisan AI proposals. But he also announced plans to hold a series of “insight" forums this fall with top experts to solicit input on how lawmakers should move ahead on legislation.

The comments could kick off a sprawling push to craft new AI policies and guardrails across the chamber. Lawmakers have introduced a slew of proposals in recent years to set new privacy protections for digital services and to require companies to vet their products for biases, but the bills have gained limited traction. Schumer’s new focus on the issue could rekindle those efforts.

The comments arrive as policymakers across Washington race to develop a strategy to maximize the benefits of AI while containing its potential harms, which industry leaders and advocates have warned range from amplifying falsehoods to threatening human extinction.

The booming popularity of AI-driven chatbots like OpenAI’s ChatGPT and Google’s Bard has both captivated and concerned officials, who have said they are worried about again failing to protect consumers from the perils of Silicon Valley’s latest craze. It’s prompted lawmakers to hold a wave of public hearings and private meetings with industry leaders, researchers and advocates as they look to get their bearings in the quickly changing AI field.

While federal lawmakers for years have hammered social media companies like Facebook, Twitter and YouTube for purportedly undermining U.S. democracy and surveilling users with little discretion, Congress has been unable to pass any major regulations for the tech sector.

The lack of movement on legislation to set guardrails for emerging technologies in Washington stands in stark contrast to the activity in Brussels, where policymakers in recent years have enacted sweeping proposals on data privacy, competition online and content moderation, with new AI rules on the horizon.

Schumer said officials overseas have “failed to capture the imagination of the world" for what a government approach to AI could look like, and that the U.S. could still set a global regulatory standard that over countries looked to. And he said he will work on developing an “American” approach to harnessing the technology that stands in contrast to more restrictive proposals from U.S. rivals like China.

Schumer urged his Senate colleagues to “cast aside ideological hang-ups and political self-interest,” and work on a bipartisan basis to develop “comprehensive” AI legislation, a lengthy process that the Senate leaders and his allies have said could take months to iron out.

Details about what legislation Schumer will pursue remain sparse, and his timeline for putting together a legislative package remains unclear. But Schumer laid out five principles on Wednesday to guide lawmakers on AI legislation — including security, accountability and explainability — that expand on a “high-level” framework he first teased in April.

“It’s not going to be days or weeks, but it’s not going to be years. Months would be the proper timeline that I would give you,” Schumer said in a brief on-stage interview after the speech.

In a memo broadly detailing the approach, Schumer called it “an all-hands-on-deck effort in the Senate, with committees developing bipartisan legislation, and a bipartisan gang of non-committee chairs working to further develop the Senate’s policy response.”

The memo calls for requiring that “AI systems align with our democratic values at their core,” while supporting “the deployment of responsible systems” that tackle concerns about misinformation, bias and liability, support copyright holders and protect intellectual property.

In addition to discussing potential guardrails, Schumer questioned whether “federal intervention” is needed to “encourage innovation” in the space. The remarks signal that the Senate may consider new funding to boost research and innovation on AI.

“The ‘black box’ of AI systems and its ever-expanding use cases demand we invest in the research and innovation necessary to better understand how these systems work and how we can harness their potential for good,” Schumer added in the memo.

Schumer nodded to concerns voiced by President Biden’s antitrust enforcersand former federal advisers that large tech companies could come to dominate AI, saying in his address that Congress must ensure that “innovation and competition is open to everyone, not just the few big powerful companies.”

Schumer, who last week held the first of three planned all-member AI briefings, said his planned forums will consider how the technology could impact the workforce, national security, copyright, privacy and other issues.

“We need the best of the best sitting at the table: the top AI developers, top executives, scientists, advocates, community leaders, workers, national security experts all together in one room, doing years of work in a matter of months,” Schumer told a small crowd of researchers, consumer advocates and industry representatives at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.“

How E-Bike Battery Fires Became a Deadly Crisis in New York City - The New York Times

How E-Bike Battery Fires Became a Deadly Crisis in New York City

"City leaders are racing to regulate battery-powered mobility devices, which have been the source of over 100 fires so far this year.

Charred bicycles and scooters, marked off by yellow tape, are piled up on the street. They were from a fire at an e-bike repair store in Chinatown on June 20.
Charred bicycles and scooters from a fire at an e-bike repair store in Chinatown on June 20.Amir Hamja/The New York Times

His girlfriend told him not to buy the electric scooter.

But Alfonso Villa Muñoz was intrigued. He was working in a Brooklyn bodega last August when a delivery man said he knew someone selling one for $700. Mr. Muñoz said yes.

The scooter was cherry red with the number 7 on the front. Under the seat was an extra-large lithium ion battery. When it needed charging, Mr. Muñoz would remove the battery from the scooter and use both hands to lug it up to the couple’s third-floor apartment in College Point, Queens.

A month later, the battery exploded in the living room, unleashing flames that engulfed the apartment. Mr. Muñoz screamed for their 8-year-old daughter, Stephanie, who was asleep. He could not breach the wall of black smoke to get to her. Stephanie died from smoke inhalation.

“It’s like you bring in death and destruction to your house, and not only to you, to everybody around you,” said Mr. Muñoz, 36, pulling off his glasses to wipe away tears. “You could lose everything.”

Framed photos of Stephanie Villa Torres, 8, one of the 23 victims of fires sparked by faulty lithium batteries in New York City since 2021.
Stephanie Villa Torres, 8, was one of the 23 victims of fires sparked by faulty lithium batteries in New York City since 2021.José A. Alvarado Jr. for The New York Times

E-bikes and e-scooters have flooded New York City’s streets in recent years, embraced by delivery workers and commuters alike as an economical and efficient new way to get around. But even as the devices have grown in popularity to become nearly ubiquitous, the batteries inside them have made New York City an epicenter for a new kind of ferocious and fast-moving fire.

These fires are “uniquely dangerous,” warned Laura Kavanagh, the city’s fire commissioner. With little or no warning, the batteries can ignite, leaving seconds for people to escape. In just three years, lithium battery fires have tied electrical fires and have surpassed blazes started by cooking and smoking for major causes of fatal fires in the city.

Reasons for the uptick of these fires are myriad. They include a lack of regulation and safety testing for individually owned devices, hazardous charging practices (like using mismatched equipment or overcharging) and a lack of secure charging areas in a population-dense city with numerous residential buildings, where most fires start.

But for New Yorkers who rely on e-bikes and other battery-powered devices to make deliveries or otherwise earn a living, the fires have forced a choice between financial stability and personal safety.

Across the country, over 200 micro-mobility fire or overheating incidents have been reported from 39 states, resulting in at least 19 fatalities, according to the United States Consumer Product Safety Commission. But the organization emphasized that the problem is particularly acute in densely populated areas like New York City. In London, lithium battery fires are the fastest-growing fire risk, with 57 e-bike fires and 13 e-scooter fires this year, according to the London Fire Brigade.

In New York, lithium battery fires have killed 13 people so far this year, including four people in a blaze that started in an e-bike store in Chinatown on Tuesday. A total of 23 people have died in battery fires since 2021. This year, there have been 108 fires so far, compared with 98 fires for the same period last year.

‘These devices are here now, and there’s lots of them’

During the pandemic, when public transit was compromised and the demand for food deliveries skyrocketed, a ready supply of cheap e-bikes and e-scooters  of questionable quality cropped up across the city.

New Yorkers looking for good deals pounced. With many residents living in tight quarters, they would charge their batteries in their apartments.

But once a lithium battery overheats or malfunctions, all bets are off; the speed and impact of lithium battery fires make them particularly perilous, especially when people live close together.

This has pushed more and more landlords to ban e-bikes and other e-mobility devices, while New York’s leaders have worked to prevent the fires on several fronts. In September, New York will become the first city in the nation to ban the sale of e-bikes and other e-mobility devices that fail to meet recognized safety standards.

City and fire officials have also pushed for greater state and federal oversight of the devices, shut down illegal battery charging stations, worked with food delivery apps to educate workers and shown public service messages with exploding batteries.

“I have very, very serious concerns in the short term,” Commissioner Kavanagh said. “These devices are here now, and there’s lots of them.”

A ‘mini inferno’ at Citi Bike foreshadows a crisis

After a fire at a Citi Bike warehouse in 2019, battery safety became a priority for the bike-share program. Now it uses only batteries that have been certified to safety standards and have built-in sensors to monitor their condition in real time. José A. Alvarado Jr. for The New York Times

In March 2019, Citi Bike, the popular bike-share program, was charging its pedal-assisted e-bikes in its Brooklyn warehouse when a fire broke out.

It started with a loud bang like a pistol shot. Then came flames with chrome-colored sparks flying out and a rush of heat. “In an instant, the batteries began to explode into flames one by one, like a domino effect, going from right to left,” recounted a witness in the fire marshal’s report. “Within 10 seconds, the entire top row became a mini inferno.”

Though e-bike fires were just becoming a problem, fire officials had been aware of the dangers of lithium batteries for years. They initially focused on the highly regulated batteries in energy storage systems, which hold backup electricity for buildings.

Leo Subbarao, who worked as a fire protection engineer in the department until 2019, recalled there had been talk back then about whether the city should allow a battery storage system to be placed under an elevated subway track. Fire officials quickly put an end to that.

“The technology was moving forward so fast, and we were trying to catch up with regulations,” said Mr. Subbarao, who lectures at John Jay College of Criminal Justice.

After the Citi Bike fire, battery safety became a priority for the bike-share program. It uses only batteries that have been certified to safety standards and have built-in sensors to monitor their condition in real time, as well as a shut-down switch. In the warehouse, each battery is inspected and charged in a rack with fireproof concrete dividers. There has not been a major battery fire since at Citi Bike since these protocols were added.

Fire officials also revised the city fire code, which now requires buildings to provide safety measures, like a dedicated charging room with a sprinkler, when more than five e-bikes are charging.

But the fire code does not cover the individual use of e-bikes, and fire inspectors do not enter private dwellings to check for safety violations without a warrant. So there are no safeguards to prevent what happened to Josue Mendez.

While he was charging an e-bike overnight in his bedroom, Josue Mendez woke up to see it “throwing smoke” and then exploding. He managed to escape. José A. Alvarado Jr. for The New York Times

Mr. Mendez, a delivery worker, had plugged an e-bike battery to charge beside his bed in his Bronx apartment in 2021. He woke up to see it “throwing smoke,” and then it exploded like fireworks. Mr. Mendez and his family sprinted out the door, flames chasing them. “Thank God we were able to come out alive,” said Mr. Mendez, 31, a Mexican immigrant, who was burned on his back and arms.

After the fire, Mr. Mendez’s family moved to another building in northern Manhattan. Earlier this year, the building banned e-bikes, but it did not ban the batteries themselves, which pose the most danger. So Mr. Mendez parked his e-bike on the street and took the batteries upstairs to charge.

‘We’re trying to squeeze too much energy out of these batteries’

The batteries in e-bikes contain far more energy than in cellphones and, as a result, are more destructive in a fire.José A. Alvarado Jr. for The New York Times

Lithium batteries, which have been used commercially since 1991, have a history of sparking fires in Dell notebook computers, Samsung smartphones and hoverboards, leading to huge recalls.

But after years of research to “engineer the hazard out,” lithium batteries have generally become safer, said Adam Barowy, a fire protection engineer who specializes in lithium batteries for the Fire Safety Research Institute at UL Research Institutes, a nonprofit.

Inside a lithium battery, a number of small cells are bundled together. When the battery is used, lithium ions move between the electrodes inside each cell, generating an electrical current. The danger occurs when a cell goes into “thermal runaway,” a chain reaction in which heat develops extremely quickly, creating a threat of fire and sometimes explosion. A cell can be sent into thermal runaway by overcharging, a manufacturing defect or even the heat from an adjacent cell in the battery pack that is already in thermal runaway.

But there is market pressure on manufacturers to add more energy to batteries, which can push safety limits. The batteries in e-bikes contain far more energy than in cellphones and, as a result, are more destructive in a fire.

“The problem is that we’re trying to squeeze too much energy out of these batteries, and that makes them more dangerous,” said Nikhil Gupta, a professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering at New York University’s Tandon School of Engineering.

Regulation means costly testing but safer devices

This is what a lithium battery for an e-bike may look like. José A. Alvarado Jr. for The New York Times

More powerful batteries are only part of the reason that so many e-bikes and e-scooters are catching fire. Electric cars and energy storage systems, which are being increasingly adopted to fight climate change, require far more energy and yet have fewer fires.

The difference, according to battery and fire safety experts, is that those industries are closely regulated and have to go through several layers of testing to show their products are safe. Until recently, e-bikes and e-scooters have not received similar scrutiny.

Victoria Hutchison, a senior research project manager at the Fire Protection Research Foundation, said the lack of safety regulations and testing requirements has allowed cheaper, low-quality devices and batteries of questionable safety to enter the market. “That’s really the root of the problem,” she said.

These products of questionable origin also make it difficult for victims to sue. The batteries are often destroyed in the fires, and even when they can be recovered, they can lack identifying marks to trace back to a specific manufacturer or distributor who can be held legally responsible, according to lawyers and fire experts.

The Consumer Product Safety Commission has increased its oversight of e-mobility devices, urging companies to “comply with established voluntary safety standards or face possible enforcement action.” And New York lawmakers, including Senator Chuck Schumer, have proposed a federal safety standard for lithium batteries used in those devices.

Ash Lovell, the electric bicycle policy and campaign director for PeopleForBikes, the national trade association for bike manufacturers, which has called for more safety regulations, said the low-quality batteries do not reflect the overall e-bike industry. Most of their members also sell e-bikes in Europe and have already met robust safety regulations there, she said.

Fatal flames and a heartbroken family

Marilu Torres, the mother of Stephanie, whose photograph she holds, said the e-scooter she never wanted has “broken part of me.” She stands with her boyfriend, Alfonso Villa Muñoz, left, and her son, Jefferson Jimenez. José A. Alvarado Jr. for The New York Times

When Mr. Muñoz brought home the red e-scooter from the bodega, it did not come with any safety certifications. He did not know to be worried.

He met his girlfriend, Marilu Torres, at a party in Sunset Park, Brooklyn, in 2013. He drank too much and left his sweater and an ID card. She returned them. They moved in together, and the next year, Stephanie was born.

They called her “gatito,” kitten in Spanish, because she made meowing sounds when she was young. She had a big heart for all creatures, even alligators and tarantulas. “She would like something odd and make it her own,” said Jefferson Jimenez, 19, Ms. Torres’s son.

Mr. Muñoz said he bought the e-scooter so Mr. Jimenez could ride it. He also used it to make extra money delivering Grubhub orders.

But then the trouble started. Mr. Muñoz was riding it one day when the battery died. He had to push the scooter home. “I’m going to throw it in the garbage,” he said he told himself. When he plugged in the battery, it would not charge.

His co-worker at the bodega brought in another charger, and then another, until one finally worked. That night, Mr. Muñoz brought the charger and battery to his apartment and went to sleep. Hours later, he woke up to smoke “like the darkest thing you have ever seen.”

With severe burns on his face, arms and hands, Mr. Muñoz spent two months in the hospital. He was there when he found out that the cause of all the misery and devastation had been the battery.

Ms. Torres said the e-scooter she never wanted has “broken part of me.”

Susan C. Beachy contributed research."

How E-Bike Battery Fires Became a Deadly Crisis in New York City - The New York Times

OceanGate Was Warned of Safety Concerns with Titanic Mission - The New York Times

OceanGate Was Warned of Potential for ‘Catastrophic’ Problems With Titanic Mission

"Experts inside and outside the company warned of potential dangers and urged the company to undergo a certification process.

Years before OceanGate’s submersible craft went missing in the Atlantic Ocean with five people onboard, the company faced several warnings as it prepared for its hallmark mission of taking wealthy passengers to tour the Titanic’s wreckage.

It was January 2018, and the company’s engineering team was about to hand over the craft — named Titan — to a new crew who would be responsible for ensuring the safety of its future passengers. But experts inside and outside the company were beginning to sound alarms.

OceanGate’s director of marine operations, David Lochridge, started working on a report around that time, according to court documents, ultimately producing a scathing document in which he said the craft needed more testing and stressed “the potential dangers to passengers of the Titan as the submersible reached extreme depths.”

Two months later, OceanGate faced similarly dire calls from more than three dozen people — industry leaders, deep-sea explorers and oceanographers — who warned in a letter to its chief executive, Stockton Rush, that the company’s “experimental” approach and its decision to forgo a traditional assessment could lead to potentially “catastrophic” problems with the Titanic mission.

Now, as the international search for the craft enters another day, more is coming to light about the warnings leveled at OceanGate as the company raced to provide extreme tourism for the wealthy.

A spokesman for OceanGate declined to comment on the five-year-old critiques from Mr. Lochridge and the industry leaders. Nor did Mr. Lochridge respond to a request for comment.

Mr. Rush, the company’s chief executive, is one of the passengers on the vessel and was serving as its pilot when it went missing on Sunday, the company said on Tuesday.

An aerospace engineer and pilot, he founded the company, based in Everett, Wash., in 2009. For the past three years, he has charged up to $250,000 per person for a chance to visit the wreckage of the Titanic, which sank in 1912 on its inaugural trip from England to New York.

The critiques from Mr. Lochridge and the experts who signed the 2018 letter to Mr. Rush were focused in part on what they characterized as Mr. Rush’s refusal to have the Titan inspected and certified by one of the leading agencies that do such work.

Mr. Lochridge reported in court records that he had urged the company to do so, but that he had been told that OceanGate was “unwilling to pay” for such an assessment. After getting Mr. Lochridge’s report, the company’s leaders held a tense meeting to discuss the situation, according to court documents filed by both sides. The documents came in a lawsuit that OceanGate filed against Mr. Lochridge in 2018, accusing him of sharing confidential information outside the company.

In the documents, Mr. Lochridge reported learning that the viewport that lets passengers see outside the craft was only certified to work in depths of up to 1,300 meters.

That is far less than would be necessary for trips to the Titanic, which is nearly 4,000 meters below the ocean’s surface.

“The paying passengers would not be aware, and would not be informed, of this experimental design,” lawyers for Mr. Lochridge wrote in a court filing.

The meeting led OceanGate to fire Mr. Lochridge, according to court documents filed by both sides. OceanGate has said in court records that he was not an engineer, that he refused to accept information from the company’s engineering team and that acoustic monitoring of the hull’s strength was better than the kind of testing that Mr. Lochridge felt was necessary.

The company said in its lawsuit that it appeared Mr. Lochridge was trying to be fired. Mr. Lochridge responded by alleging wrongful termination. The legal battle ended in a settlement later in 2018.

The separate warning that OceanGate received that same year came from 38 experts in the submersible craft industry; all of them were members of the Manned Underwater Vehicles committee of the Marine Technology Society, a 60-year-old industry group that promotes, studies and teaches the public about ocean technology. The experts wrote in their letter to Mr. Rush that they had “unanimous concern” about the way the Titan had been developed, and about the planned missions to the Titanic wreckage.

The letter said that OceanGate’s marketing of the Titan had been “at minimum, misleading” because it claimed that the submersible would meet or exceed the safety standards of a risk assessment company known as DNV, even though the company had no plans to have the craft formally certified by the agency.

“Their plan of not following classification guidelines was considered very risky,” Will Kohnen, the chairman of the committee, said in an interview on Tuesday.

The industry leaders said in their letter that OceanGate should, at minimum, test its prototypes under the watch of DNV or another leading certification company.

“While this may demand additional time and expense,” the signatories wrote, “it is our unanimous view that this validation process by a third-party is a critical component in the safeguards that protect all submersible occupants.”

Mr. Kohnen said that Mr. Rush called him after reading the letter and told him that industry standards were stifling innovation.

In an unsigned 2019 blog post titled “Why Isn’t Titan Classed?,” the company made similar arguments. OceanGate said in the post that because its Titan craft was so innovative, it could take years to get it certified by the usual assessment agencies. “Bringing an outside entity up to speed on every innovation before it is put into real-world testing is anathema to rapid innovation,” the company wrote.

Another signatory of the 2018 letter, Bart Kemper, said in an interview that OceanGate had avoided having to abide by certain U.S. regulations by deploying the vessel in international waters, where Coast Guard rules did not apply.

“This letter was basically asking them to please do what the other submarines do, especially the passenger ones,” said Mr. Kemper, a forensic engineer who works on submarine designs.

Submersibles, unlike boats and other vessels, are largely unregulated, particularly when they operate in international waters, said Salvatore Mercogliano, an associate professor of maritime history at Campbell University in North Carolina.

Because the Titan is loaded onto a Canadian ship and then dropped into the North Atlantic near the Titanic, he said, it does not need to register with a country, fly a flag or follow rules that apply to many other vessels.

“It’s kind of like a boat on the back of a trailer,” Mr. Mercogliano said. “The police will ensure the trailer meets the requirements to be on the road, but they really won’t do a boat inspection.”

The Passenger Vessel Safety Act of 1993, which regulates submersibles that carry passengers and requires that they be registered with the Coast Guard, does not apply to the Titan because it does not fly an American flag or operate in American waters, he said.

Mr. Rush has spoken publicly in the past about what he viewed as regulatory red tape in the industry.

“There hasn’t been an injury in the commercial sub industry in over 35 years,” he told Smithsonian magazine in a profile published in 2019. “It’s obscenely safe because they have all these regulations. But it also hasn’t innovated or grown — because they have all these regulations.”

In a CBS report last year, David Pogue, a former New York Times technology columnist, joined one of OceanGate’s Titanic expeditions and said the paperwork that he signed before getting onboard warned that the Titan was an “experimental vessel” that had not been “approved or certified by any regulatory body, and could result in physical injury, emotional trauma or death.”

OceanGate has made two previous expeditions to the Titanic site, in 2021 and 2022, and said in a May blog post that it “always expects new challenges” with each trip. “We’re starting our Titanic Expedition earlier than usual and have been tracking all the social media posts showing icebergs and sea ice in the area,” the post read.

The earlier trips, while largely successful, were not without problems.

In February, a couple in Florida sued Mr. Rush, saying that his company refused to refund them the $105,000 that they each paid to visit the Titanic on the Titan in 2018. The trip was postponed several times, according to the suit, in part because the company said it needed to run more tests on the Titan. The couple claimed that Mr. Rush reneged on his promise of giving them a refund and that the company instead demanded that they participate in a July 2021 voyage to the wreckage.

The lawsuit is pending and Mr. Rush has not responded to it. Court records do not list a lawyer representing him in that case.

In a court filing last year, OceanGate referenced some technical issues with the Titan during the 2021 trip.

“On the first dive to the Titanic, the submersible encountered a battery issue and had to be manually attached to its lifting platform,” the company’s legal and operational adviser, David Concannon, wrote in the document, which was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, which oversees matters having to do with the Titanic. The submersible sustained modest damage to its exterior, he wrote, leading OceanGate to cancel the mission so it could make repairs.

Still, Mr. Concannon wrote in the filing, 28 people were able to visit the Titanic wreckage on the Titan last year.

Mr. Concannon invited the federal judge who was hearing the case, Rebecca Beach Smith, to join the company for an expedition, according to a separate filing, something the judge seemed interested in doing.

“Perhaps, if another expedition occurs in the future, I will be able to do so,” the judge wrote in May, adding that after many years of hearing cases about the Titanic wreckage, “that opportunity would be quite informative and present a first ‘eyes on’ view of the wreck site by the court.”

Kitty Bennett and Susan C. Beachy contributed research. Mike Baker and Shawn Hubler contributed reporting."

OceanGate Was Warned of Safety Concerns with Titanic Mission - The New York Times