Tesla continues to deal with fallout from an accident that involved its Autopilot system in China. It’s the latest in a series of accidents in which drivers have pointed the finger at the system. The automaker has been busily changing the Chinese translations on its websites over the last couple of days in an attempt to make it clearer that the term “Autopilot” doesn’t mean the car can drive itself without any assistance from the driver.
Tesla temporarily removes the word “Autopilot”
Reuters reported this morning that Tesla had removed the word “autopilot” and also a Chinese word meaning “self-driving” from its Chinese website. A spokesperson for the automaker said they have been looking at language discrepancies across its websites in multiple languages for weeks. The spokesperson also claimed that the timing of the changes to its Chinese language translation had nothing to do with the Autopilot-related accident in China.
The crash occurred earlier this month on a highway in Beijing. The driver of the Tesla that was involved said Autopilot was engaged and that the car didn’t avoid a vehicle that was parked on the left side of the highway partially in the road. It was the first accident in China that was reported to have occurred while Autopilot was engaged. It follows a few other accidents in which drivers claimed the system had something to do with them. One of the accidents claimed the life of the driver and is now under investigation.
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Tesla adds “Autopilot” back in
It appears Tesla’s Chinese language website has gone through multiple revisions over the last couple of days. The changes follow accusations of misleading marketing following the August 2 accident. A spokesperson for the automaker told ValueWalk in an email that they added the word “Autopilot” back in after Reuters reported that it had been removed:
“We’ve been in the process of making changes to the translations for many weeks. We’re solving for any discrepancies across the different Asian languages. When we made the change the actual word ‘Autopilot’ was accidentally removed. It’s been restored. On the Chinese website it reads ‘Autopilot ??????’ which means Autopilot and then the translation, auto assisted driving.”
Do the changes to Tesla’s China website matter much?
ValueWalk spoke to several Chinese translators and language experts. One person who is fluent in Chinese told us that in the last two days, Tesla has changed its Chinese language website slightly in non-consequential ways. The translation that’s up there right now uses the English word “Autopilot” followed by the Chinese word meaning “auto assisted driving,” according to another expert.
Another previous version of Tesla’s website simply had the English word “Autopilot” without a Chinese translation:
Tesla China employees also receiving more training
Reuters reports that Tesla employees in China are also reportedly receiving additional training emphasizing that they must keep their hands on the wheel at all times when demonstrating the Autopilot feature. The media outlet cites an employee of the automaker who wasn’t authorized to speak to the media.
Chinese law states that drivers must keep both hands on the wheel all the time, and Reuters reports that some Tesla drivers said some sales staff took their hands off the wheel when demonstrating the Autopilot system.