Business / Auto China

With Autopilot on, Tesla driver crashes in China

By Zhu Lingqing ( Updated: 2016-08-05 16:17

With Autopilot on, Tesla driver crashes in China

The Tesla Model S involved in the accident in Beijing, August 2, 2016. [Photo provided to]

With Autopilot on and driver's hands off the steering wheel, a Tesla Model S was involved in an accident on Beijing's North Fifth Ring Road Tuesday morning, becoming China's first known Tesla Autopilot accident. No one was killed or injured in the crash.

Luo Zhen, the driver of the car, has been driving for seven years, and has never been involved in any accident before.

"My car hit the right side of a black Santana that was parked in the inner lane of the road after it had developed some mechanical problem," he told

He added that before the crash happened, he could see almost half of the Santana's back through his naked eye and there was a reaction time of around five seconds, but Tesla's Autopilot system failed to spot the vehicle and crashed into it, while another car that was initially in front of him bypassed it successfully.

"After the accident, I had to manually stop the car, otherwise it would have kept going, as if it had just hit a speed bump," Luo said.

He thought the car's reaction was confusing because it did not conform to the car's priority reaction of automatically turning right and following the vehicle in front. Instead it kept going.

With Autopilot on, Tesla driver crashes in China

The damaged left front fender of the Tesla Model S is pictured in Beijing, August 2, 2016. [Photo provided to]

The Santana's taillight and reflectors were damaged, while the Tesla Model S's left front bumper, left front headlight, left front fender and left mirror were crashed.

The accident has cost Luo 50,000 yuan ($7,525) on repairs. And when he bought the car, he spent more than 20,000 yuan on the optional Autopilot Convenience Features.

Believing there are technical bugs in the system of Autopilot, Luo said Tesla should take half of the responsibility, while the other half should be paid by the Santana's driver for illegal parking.

However, there is no law in China and many other countries that clearly states who should be held responsible in case a self-driven vehicle is involved in an accident.

"There are not many self-driven cars at the moment, so it is unrealistic to expect a law," said Fu Yuwu, chairman of Society of Automotive Engineers of China, according to a report by National Business Daily.

Luo contacted Tesla but all he got was the contact detail of the insurance company.

With Autopilot on, Tesla driver crashes in China

The interior of a Tesla Model S is shown in autopilot mode in San Francisco, California, US, April 7, 2016.[Photo/Agencies]

He posted an article telling details of the accident and his opinions on Twitter-like Sina Weibo on Wednesday, which has drawn dozens of comments and discussions.

Luo criticized Tesla for exaggerating the automatic driving function but only using a small space on the manual to warn users that it is only an assistance driving system.

However, a comment on his post said Tesla's manual specifically warned drivers not to remove their hands from the steering wheel, not to mention it is illegal to do this in China.

The world's first fatal Tesla Autopilot crash happened on May 7 in Williston, US. In a blog post, Tesla reiterated that customers are required to agree that the system is in a "public beta phase" and the driver is required to "maintain control and responsibility for your vehicle", according to a report by

Luo said a lawyer team has contacted him to support him to sue Tesla for false advertising, but he has not decided whether to do it yet.

Duan Zhengzheng, senior public relations manager at Tesla China, declined China Daily website's telephone interview request on Friday.

Hao Yan contributed to this story.

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