Following a fender bender in a Tesla Model S on Autopilot in China last month and the driver’s allegation that Tesla told him the vehicle was “self-driving”, which was supported by Tesla using the words “zidong jiashi”, which translates to “self-driving”, on its Chinese website, Tesla has now removed any mention of the words and staff are reportedly undergoing more training to make sure they understand that Autopilot is not self-driving and drivers need to keep their hands on the wheel.
The new term on Tesla’s Chinese website now translates to ‘self-assisted driving’.
A Tesla spokeswoman told Reuters that the company was changing the language for “many weeks” before the accident, which according to the spokeswoman had “nothing to do” with the timing of the update to the website:
“At Tesla we are continuously making improvements, including to translations, a Tesla spokeswoman said in an emailed statement to Reuters.We’ve been in the process of addressing any discrepancies across languages for many weeks. Timing had nothing to do with current events or articles.”
The incident comes when there’s already a lot of attention on the terminology used by automakers to describe their Advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS) currently available in their vehicles. It started with some people, including Consumer Reports, calling for Tesla to change the name of the Autopilot, but the automaker refused and argued that the comparison with an airplane’s autopilot is appropriate.
At the time, the references to “self-driving” on its Chinese website were unknown.
Then Mercedes came under fire for a series of adverts describing its ADAS, the Drive Pilot, as a “self-driving car”. Consumer Reports again complained and Mercedes was quick to pull the ads.
In a similar situation as ‘Tesla China’, we reported on Volvo referring to its ‘Pilot Assist’ as “self-driving”. The company quickly let us know that any reference to the system being “self-driving” was an “error” on their part.