Tesla’s Autopilot Feature Comes Back to Haunt it Again; This Time in China
Tesla’s Autopilot Feature Comes Back to Haunt it Again; This Time in China

Tesla’s Autopilot Feature Comes Back to Haunt it Again; This Time in China

Luo Zhen has criticized the autopilot feature after his Model S crashed into a parked car, with the feature enabled

After another self-driven car crash, Tesla Motors continues to find trouble with its autonomous cars. Criticism and investigations over an earlier fatal crash of Model S had not subsided, when another car crash was reported. The accident took place in Beijing, China on August 3 when the car was in auto-pilot mode.

Luo Zhen, a software engineer, was on his way to work in his Model S on autopilot mode when the crash happened. Mr. Zhen often keeps his car on autopilot whenever he drives on highways. His car crashed in a Volkswagen Santana which was parked on the roadside. Luo Zhen suffered no major injuries but the side mirror of the Santana was scraped off while both cars received some damage.

The car owner has put the blame for the crash on Tesla Motors as he believes that the company promoted it as a self-driving car. However, Tesla’s cars are actually only semi-autonomous and require the input of the driver.

Reuters says that other drivers in the country have confirmed this sales promotion tactic used by local salesmen. They say that the company staff did not give any clear statements on the self-driving capabilities and promoted the car like it was equipped with an Advanced Driver Assistance System (ADAS). The salesmen took their hands off the car steering while they demonstrated the autonomous cars to these owners, giving the impression of a self-driving feature.

These sales persons used the term "zidong jiashi", which in literal terms means self-driving. It is also used on several Tesla portals in China. This term is used for the autopilot feature in airplanes as well, which further caused confusion among buyers as they assumed the cars were self-driving, rather than semi-autonomous.

Luo was using his phone and was constantly looking at the road every few seconds before the crash. He says that he has been using the autopilot feature in this manner for the past two months. He even posted pictures and videos of his car on Chinese social media platform, Weibo.

Tesla has clarified its stance numerous times that the driver's hands need to be on the steering when autopilot is enabled so that they can take over the car anytime. After reviewing the data, the electric car maker has confirmed that autopilot was enabled but the drivers hand on the steering wheel were not detected.

The recent incident has raised questions on the autopilot feature once again. Last week, the autopilot feature was applauded by many after it helped Joshua Neally, a Model X owner, to reach hospital. Mr. Neally suffered from pulmonary embolism and had to rely on the autopilot system for more than 20 miles to reach the nearest hospital.

In May, the autopilot feature was considered as the main factor in the fatal Model S car crash, after which it has faced multiple inquiries from regulators.

Editing by Shuaib Ahmed; Graphics by Ahsan Haque

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