Tue | Jan 23, 2018

Crash puts Tesla under Chinese scrutiny

Published:Sunday | September 18, 2016 | 12:00 AM
Visitors look at a Tesla Model S electric car on display at the Beijing International Automotive Exhibition in Beijing. Tesla said August 15, 2016.


Tesla faces new scrutiny in China about its vehicle autopilot system after state television broadcast allegations that a man killed in a crash had activated the driver-assist feature of his car. The state broadcaster CCTV aired a report on Wednesday about a January crash that killed 23- year-old Gao Yaning. The report included apparent dash cam footage of the car slamming into a slow-moving orange truck.

An official interviewed in the report said the car's autopilot feature was active at the time of the crash. CCTV reported that Gao's family has sued Tesla in a Beijing court, though the lawsuit was not available in online court records.

Tesla said in a statement that the car was too damaged in the wreck to transmit data to company servers and that Gao's family had not cooperated with the company's investigation. "We have tried repeatedly to work with our customer to investigate the cause of the crash, but he has not provided us with any additional information that would allow us to do so," it said.

A spokeswoman for the company did not respond to questions about what the car had reported before the crash.

The nationally broadcast report was a potential setback for Palo Alto, California-based Tesla's efforts to expand in China, the world's largest auto market. Tesla has explored building a manufacturing plant in China, but under national regulations, that would require it to partner with a domestic company.

Both in China and the United States Tesla has faced scrutiny and criticism over its marketing of driver-assist features. Last month, the company revised language on its Chinese website that it said would make clearer to drivers that its autopilot system was not self-driving.

The US National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) are investigating the May death of a 40-year-old Tesla driver in Florida. The Tesla driver-assist feature was engaged during the crash of the Tesla Model S sedan.