China Tesla Crash Destroyed 'Autopilot' Data Logs

Man killed in China Tesla crash after slamming into a street sweeper, family says 'Autopilot' was on

China Tesla Crash Destroyed 'Autopilot' Data Logs

Posted in News

— A China Tesla crash that occurred on January 20, 2016, killed 23-year-old Gao Yaning when the Model S slammed into a street sweeper on a highway, allegedly while the "Autopilot" system was engaged.

The Model S crash occurred about 300 miles from Beijing and based on dashcam video of the crash, the car didn't brake or take any evasive action to avoid the obstacle, making it clear the driver wasn't paying attention to his surroundings.

Tesla says the crash was so severe the company couldn't receive data indicting if Autopilot was engaged, leaving the automaker in the dark whether Autopilot caused the crash.

Tesla has always maintained Autopilot is to assist a driver, not take complete control from a driver. Each time the feature is activated, a driver receives text and audio warnings to inform the driver to keep their hands on the steering wheel at all times.

If the system works as designed, a warning will be issued if the driver isn't touching the steering wheel and the car will allegedly slow down if the warning is ignored.

A police investigation laid the blame on Mr. Yaning for the car slamming into the sweeper, but his family says the video proves Autopilot was engaged because Yaning did nothing to avoid the crash, believing the feature was driving for him.

Tesla recently updated its Autopilot system to require the feature to rely more on radar than cameras, something Tesla says will help the car avoid road hazards. However, the automaker continues to emphasize a driver must be ready to take control of the car at any time.

It's possible more exact details will be revealed in court because the family filed a lawsuit against Tesla and the dealership that sold the Model S to Mr. Yaning.

It's not the first Model S crash in China where questions about Autopilot have popped up. A separate Tesla crash recently caused the automaker to remove from its website a Chinese phrase that means "self-driving."

Following the August crash of a Model S that sideswiped a parked car, the owner of the Tesla complained the automaker had pushed the "self-driving" features of the car. The driver, Luo Zhen, 33, of Beijing, told Chinese authorities he did more than $7,000 damage to the Model S and he blamed Tesla for marketing the Model S as a self-driving car when it isn't.

In the U.S., the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration continues to investigate two Tesla crashes, one that involved the death of 40-year-old former Navy SEAL Joshua Brown.

In addition to the Brown crash, NHTSA is looking into the crash of a Tesla Model X SUV that occurred in Pennsylvania. The driver claims he had activated Autopilot, but Tesla says it doesn't believe the feature has anything to do with the crash.

Video of the fatal China Tesla crash involving the Model S: