Last week, we reported on an accident in China involving a Tesla Model S hitting a car stuck on the side of the road while the Tesla was on Autopilot. The accident was caught on the driver’s dashcam and it showed a long delay during which the Tesla driver, Luo Zhen, could have taken control of the vehicle.
Luo has since admitted that he wasn’t paying attention and looking at his phone, but he says that he had a good reason to since he claims Tesla employees led him to believe he was buying a “self-driving car”.
Tesla Autopilot is an advanced assisted driving system and it doesn’t enable self-driving.
Luo insists that Tesla’s sales staff led him to believe the vehicle was able to drive itself without inputs from a driver. He told Reuters:
“The impression they give everyone is that this is self-driving, this isn’t assisted driving,”
That’s despite the vehicle asking the driver to keep their hands on the steering wheel after activating the feature and sporadically sending reminders when the feature is active.
Tesla has since reviewed the logs and said that Luo didn’t have his hands on the steering wheel during the accident.
“As clearly communicated to the driver in the vehicle, autosteer is 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.”
While this message has been fairly consistent from Tesla in North America and Europe, Reuters says that it is not the case for Tesla in China where the automaker’s staff reportedly use the term “zidong jiashi” which translates to “self-driving”.
The publication based this statement on interviews with 4 Tesla owners in China:
“They all described it as being able to drive itself,” said Shanghai resident Mao Mao, who bought a Tesla Model S last year.
A Tesla spokesperson said that the company “has never described autopilot as an autonomous technology or a ‘self-driving car,’ and any third-party descriptions to this effect are not accurate,”.
You can find the footage of the crash in our original report: Tesla driver blames Autopilot for fender bender caught on dashcam and here are pictures of the aftermath of the accident:
Full statement form a Tesla spokesperson:
The customer’s dash cam video shows that the Tesla was being driven on a highway in China where a vehicle was parked on the left shoulder straddling the left lane. The Tesla was following closely behind the car in front of it when the lead car moved to the right to avoid hitting the parked car. The driver of the Tesla, whose hands were not detected on the steering wheel, did not steer to avoid the parked car and instead scraped against its side. As clearly communicated to the driver in the vehicle, Autosteer is 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.