Tesla Motors Inc (NASDAQ:TSLA) says its Autopilot system does not turn its cars into self-driving cars, but its Chinese-language marketing of the Autopilot feature suggests otherwise, reports The Wall Street Journal. The EV maker promotes Autopilot in China as “zi dong jia shi,” meaning that the car can drive itself, which could get it in trouble.
Tesla accused of false marketing
A Beijing driver accused Tesla Motors Inc (NASDAQ:TSLA) of misleading marketing after his Model S scraped a parked Volkswagen earlier this month while its Autopilot feature was engaged. No one was injured in the accident.
When confirming the incident, the EV firm said that despite a warning from the instrument panel when the driver activated the system, he did not have his hands on the wheel.
“As clearly communicated to the driver in the vehicle, Autopilot 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,” the EV firm said.
The driver did not argue that. The 33-year-old programmer, Luo Zhen, said on his Sina Weibo account that he was overly dependent on its self-driving function. However, he added that the salespeople misled him into thinking that Autopilot gave the vehicle full self-driving capabilities. Zhen bought the Autopilot system for $4,100.
Tesla (TSLA) said to mislead the driver
Zhen agreed that he had taken his hands off the steering wheel before the incident occurred.
“It was just about 10 seconds,” said Zhen, adding that if it would had been longer, the Autopilot system would have reminded him to retake the wheel.
Luo said that when he glanced up, he saw a Volkswagen Santana parked on the left in front of his electric car, but he had no chance to swerve. His blue Model S brushed the Santana and got dinged.
Since a fatal crash on May 7 in Florida, Tesla Motors Inc (NASDAQ:TSLA)’s Autopilot system has faced increased scrutiny. In June, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) said it would investigate the crash, which was the first known Autopilot-related fatality. The Autopilot software debuted in October.
Responding to the uproar over Autopilot, Tesla Motors Inc (NASDAQ:TSLA) CEO Elon Musk said last month that the automaker has no plans to disable the function, but they would redouble their driver education efforts.
On Thursday, Tesla Motors Inc (NASDAQ:TSLA) shares closed down 0.33% at $224.91. Year to date, the stock is down almost 6%, while in the last year, it is down more than 7%.