Chinese man blames Tesla autopilot function for son's crash

Thu Sep 15, 2016 10:09am EDT
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By Brenda Goh and Norihiko Shirouzu

SHANGHAI/BEIJING (Reuters) - A Chinese man suing Tesla Motors Inc after his son was killed while driving one of the U.S. car makers' vehicles argues that the responsiveness of the car's "autopilot" function was responsible for the accident, his lawyer said.

Tesla's Autopilot, introduced in October, has been the focus of intense scrutiny. The company said earlier this month that it was updating the system with new limits on hands-off driving and other improvements that would help prevent fatalities.

The lawsuit in China would be the first involving the autopilot's role in a crash though there have been other fatalities elsewhere involving the function, the lawyer said.

Gao Jubin's 23-year-old son, Gao Yaning, died in January after crashing into the back of a road-sweeping vehicle while driving the car on a highway in the northeastern province of Hebei, according to a police report provided by the father's lawyer, Wang Beibei.

The family believes the car - a Tesla Model S sedan, according to the lawsuit - was driving in autopilot mode, the lawyer said. He said they had examined dashboard video footage and sought expert and other Tesla drivers' opinions.

"The autopilot programme's slow response failed to accurately gauge the road conditions ahead and provide instructions," according to lawsuit documents seen by Reuters.

Tesla said in a statement it was investigating the cause of the crash, but has "no way of knowing" if its semi-automated autopilot system was engaged at the time of the accident.

"Because of the damage caused by the collision, the car was physically incapable of transmitting log data to our servers," Tesla said.   Continued...

People visit a Tesla Model S car during the Auto China 2016 in Beijing, China, April 25, 2016. REUTERS/Jason Lee/File Photo