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September 16, 2016

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Tesla in spotlight after driver-assist death

TESLA faces new scrutiny in China about its vehicle autopilot system after the nation’s television broadcast allegations that a man killed in a fatal crash had activated his car’s driver-assist feature.

CCTV’s report about a January crash that killed 23-year-old Gao Yaning 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 said Gao’s family had sued Tesla in a Beijing court, though the lawsuit was not available in online court records.

Calls to the court went unanswered yesterday, the first day of the Mid-Autumn Festival holiday.

In a statement, Tesla said the car was too damaged in the crash 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 did not respond to questions about what the car had reported before the crash.

California-based Tesla’s efforts to expand in China, the world’s largest auto market, include plans to build a manufacturing plant in China, but under the nation’s current 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 the 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 is investigating the death of a 40-year-old Tesla driver in Florida. The Tesla driver-assist feature was engaged during the crash.


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