Tesla says it is investigating cause of fatal China crash

China's state-owned broadcaster CCTV on Wednesday reported that 23-year-old Gao Yaning died in January after crashing into the back of a road sweeping vehicle while driving a Tesla auto on a highway in the northeastern province of Hebei.

"Long term this is going to hurt the interests of the company and hurt the interests of an entire industry, if a company of our reputation will continue to be associated with this type of pushing the envelope in terms of safety", he said. "Since the release of Autopilot, we've continuously educated customers on the use of the features, reminding them that they're responsible to keep their hands on the wheel and remain alert and present when using Autopilot", said a Tesla spokesperson. However, reports says Autopilot may have been involved in a fatal accident in Hong Kong in January. Mobileye supplies the EyeQ3 technology used in Tesla's Autopilot system. The driver, Gao Yaning, is said to have borrowed his father's vehicle.

Musk has cited a production target of 500,000 cars a year, or tenfold the automaker's current output. Crashes can take place either due to driver's fault or because of the Autopilot, and the crash footage stored in the Autopilot cameras could be great help to figure out the real culprit. What is known is that both Autopilot and Brown failed to recognize the semi-truck that turned into the path of his Model S. The system's camera apparently confused the white trailer for a bright Florida sky while its radar system thought the truck was an overhead sign. The new software will base more decisions on data collected from radar. "You need a sensor fusion, not just one system, to avoid mistakes", said a high-ranking Detroit engineering executive.

Other changes include shifting the primary sensor for Autopilot from a visible light camera to radar, which will work in fog, darkness or blinding light but can return risky false positives or false negatives.

The first Tesla Autopilot-related crash fatality reportedly occured in China in January, five months before the widely covered incident in the United States in May.

Tesla, in its statement, said it had "tried repeatedly to work with" Gao's family to determine the cause of the crash, but the family 'has not provided us with any additional information that would allow us to do so'. Now, reports from China indicate that his may not be the first case of someone dying while using autopilot. So far, the family has declined to cooperate.

The driver's family sued the electric vehicle maker in a Beijing court in July, according to Reuters.

A graphic video taken from a dash camera mounted in Gao's Model S accompanied a report by online site Jalopnik. It shows his Model S racing along a highway in a light fog, but the street sweeper was still visible, taking up a portion of the sedan's lane. A Tesla Model S traveling at high speed smashed into the back of a very slow moving sweeper truck that was in the left-most lane, next to the divider.

  • Latoya Cobb