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Tesla driver furious after ‘Autopilot’ crash, blames misleading staff

A furious Tesla owner has spoken out against the US car maker after his vehicle crashed while in ‘Autopilot’ mode.

Tesla has confirmed that Luo Zhen’s Model S crashed into another car in Beijing while the ‘Autopilot’ software was activated, as reported by Reuters. The cause of the crash, which took place last week, has been pinned on the driver, with Tesla arguing that Zhen should have kept his hands on the wheel.

But Zhen denies that he is at fault, and says that Tesla sales staff mis-sold the car as “self-driving”, despite the technology only being classed as semi-autonomous. Speaking to Reuters, Zhen said: “The impression they give everyone is that this is self-driving, this isn’t assisted driving.”

Tesla Model S

Reuters spoke four “other unconnected Tesla drivers” in China, all of whom said that they were told by salespeople that the car has “self-driving” functionality, which is a term avoided by English-speaking staff. One Shanghai resident and Tesla Model S owner said: “They all described it as being able to drive itself.”

The crash happened when the 33-year-old programmer was driving to work and engaged the Autopilot function on the highway. His car hit a vehicle that was parked halfway off the road, which “sheared off” the parked vehicle’s wing-mirror and damaged both cars.

In an e-mailed response to Reuters, a Tesla spokesperson said: “The driver of the Tesla, whose hands were not detected on the steering wheel, did not steer to avoid the parked car and instead scraped against its side.”

The response continued: “As clearly communicated to the driver in the vehicle, autosteer is an assist feature that requires the driver to keep his hands on the steering wheel at all times, to always maintain control and responsibility for the vehicle, and to be prepared to take over at any time.”

Tesla Model S

This news comes just three months after the death of Joshua Brown, a Tesla Model S owner who died after the car drove under a truck while the car’s Autopilot was activated. According to Tesla, neither Autopilot nor the driver “noticed the white side of [a] tractor trailer against a brightly lit sky, so the brake was not applied”.

In a statement released at the time, Tesla said: “It is important to note that Tesla disables Autopilot by default and requires explicit acknowledgement that the system is new technology and still in a public beta phase before it can be enabled.”

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