Another Tesla crash has occurred on a Chinese highway. This time, the accident was fatal. Once again, autopilot is being blamed for the collision.
Back in January, a Tesla Model S hit a street sweeping vehicle on the side of a freeway in Hebei province. 23-year-old Gao Yaning was killed in the crash. In July, his family sued the Tesla dealership, saying that the vaunted autopilot feature failed to prevent the accident.
According to The New York Times, Tesla has responded that it is not even sure that the vehicle’s autopilot feature was engaged at the time of the crash.
“Because of the damage caused by the collision, the car was physically incapable of transmitting log data to our servers and we therefore have no way of knowing whether or not Autopilot was engaged at the time of the crash,” Tesla said in a statement.
Meanwhile, Gao’s father, the car’s owner, has said that he believes his son was not watching the road, because the autopilot was switched on. Dashcam footage from moments before the deadly crash shows that the Tesla did not brake or attempt to avoid the large truck, which was partially sticking out into the left-hand lane.
“When it was approaching the road sweeper, the car didn’t put on the brake or avoid it,” a police officer said a the CCTV report on the accident. “Instead, it crashed right into it.”
In August, a Beijing Tesla collided with an illegally parked car on the left-hand side of the highway. Both cars were damaged, but fortunately no one was injured in the accident. At the time of the crash, the Tesla driver had the autopilot feature engaged and later blamed it for the crash, saying that it had been implied by the Beijing salesperson that the vehicle was self-driving and that the autopilot system could fill in for the driver’s responsibilities.
Tesla responded that all Tesla owners were told that the autopilot was “an assist feature that requires the driver to keep his hands on the steering wheel at all times, to always maintain control and responsibility for the vehicle, and to be prepared to take over at any time.” Part of the confusion seemed to come from how Tesla was marketing its autopilot feature in China, promoting it as zidong jiashi (自动驾驶), which directly translates to meaning that the car can drive itself.
Following that controversy, Tesla updated its Chinese website eliminating the term.
Earlier today, Mobileye, the Israel-based company that helps Tesla build its autopilot system announced that it is breaking up with Tesla over safety concerns, saying that the company was “”pushing the envelope in terms of safety.”
Watch a Chinese-language CCTV news report on the crash below: