Photographer: Chris Ratcliffe/Bloomberg

Tesla Tweaks Autopilot’s Chinese Translation After Beijing Crash

  • Carmaker now markets Autopilot as driver-assistance system
  • Model S driver sideswiped parked car in Beijing on Aug. 2

Tesla Motors Inc. has altered the translation of how the electric-car maker markets its Autopilot system in China, following a minor accident in Beijing earlier this month.

The maker of the plug-in Model X crossover changed the translation to list Autopilot as a driver-assistance system, rather than a self-driving system, on its website, said Gary Tao, a Beijing-based spokesman. Luo Zhen, a 32-year-old Beijing resident, sideswiped a parked car when using Autopilot without keeping his hands on the wheel earlier this month, which scratched his Model S and didn’t result in any injuries.

“We hope to clarify that it is a driving-assisting function and hope people can use it in a correct way,” Tao said. Tesla has always asked its users to use Autopilot with both hands on the wheel since introducing the feature last year, he said.

Tesla’s Autopilot system has come under greater scrutiny following a May 7 crash in Florida that killed a 40-year-old Ohio man, which the company said was the first known fatality in more than 130 million miles of use. China’s regulators are crafting policies for autonomous driving and have directed automakers to suspend road testing of self-driving cars in the meantime. Domestic companies including Chongqing Changan Automobile Co., Baidu Inc. and Zhejiang Geely Holding Group Co. have urged the government to speed up the process and clear the way for technology that could make roads safer.

Luo took his eyes off the road and both hands off the wheel when his Model S sideswiped a Volkswagen Santana Vista during his commute to work on Aug. 2, he said by phone three days after the incident. Prior to purchasing the car, the sales manager demonstrated the feature by taking both hands off the wheel during a test drive, he said.

“They didn’t clarify the risk but kept leaving the impression on everyone that its technology is fabulous and intelligent,” Luo said of Tesla. “It can easily mislead people to overuse the function, which is immature.”

Tao, the Tesla spokesman, said the company wasn’t aware of the test drive taken by Luo. He confirmed the details related to the accident.

— With assistance by Yan Zhang

Before it's here, it's on the Bloomberg Terminal. LEARN MORE