Tesla Rethinks 'Autopilot' Definition in China After Beijing Crash

Tesla has removed the word "autopilot" from its China website after a driver in Beijing who crashed while the mode was active complained that the company had misled them about its capability (via Reuters).

The accident happened on a commuter highway when the car failed to avoid a vehicle parked on the left side and partially in the roadway, damaging both cars but causing no injuries.

tesla_model_s
Tesla Model S all-electric five-door, luxury liftback (Image: Tesla Motors)

It is the first incident of its kind in China, but follows a fatal crash in Florida earlier this year and highlights a lack of clarity surrounding how automated driving features work.

References to autopilot and the term "zidong jiashi", which also translates as "self-driving", were taken off the company's web page for the Model S sedan by late Sunday, according to a comparison with an archived version of the page. The references have been replaced by a phrase that translates as 'self-assisted driving'.

In an emailed statement to Reuters, a spokeswoman for the company said:
At Tesla we are continuously making improvements, including to translations. We've been in the process of addressing any discrepancies across languages for many weeks. Timing had nothing to do with current events or articles.
In response to the crash, Tesla China staff have reportedly undergone training to re-emphasize that car salespeople must always keep two hands on the wheel when demonstrating the autopilot function.

Other Tesla drivers interviewed by Reuters said China sales staff took their hands off the wheel while demonstrating the function. Under Chinese law, drivers are required to keep two hands on the wheel at all times.

The spokeswoman for Tesla said that the system was not self-driving but merely assistive and that drivers were responsible for always maintaining control of the vehicle. On the Tesla U.S. website, autopilot in the Model S is described as allowing the car "to steer within a lane, change lanes with the simple tap of a turn signal, and manage speed by using active, traffic-aware cruise control".
Digital control of motors, brakes, and steering helps avoid collisions from the front and sides, and prevents the car from wandering off the road. Autopilot also enables your car to scan for a parking space and parallel park on command. And our new Summon feature lets you "call" your car from your phone so it can come greet you at the front door in the morning.
U.S. regulators have yet to issue written regulations for autonomous vehicles, but Apple – heavily rumored to be working on a car project – has already met with California DMV officials regarding self-driving car laws within the state.

Multiple reports indicate that Apple is exploring the functionality with the possibility of including it in a later iteration of its vehicle project, which is said to be overseen by former longtime executive Bob Mansfield, who last served as Senior Vice President of Technologies at the company.

Apple has reportedly recruited hundreds of engineers from the likes of Tesla, Ford, GM, and elsewhere to work on the so-called Apple Car, codenamed "Project Titan" internally, despite CEO Tim Cook's recent refusal to be drawn on the subject. The electric vehicle could be street-ready between 2019 and 2021 according to various reports, with R&D based in Sunnyvale, California.

Related Roundup: Apple Car
Tag: Tesla


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35 months ago

Remove the word self until it's out of beta. Assisted driving. Elon is to blame for this confusion. It it were Apple they would have been a lot more conservative when talking about it and would have been clear it wasn't self-driving. Elon allowed people to believe this as a marketing tool. It's backfiring now.


If you want to have autopilot, you have to go into the car's settings, read through a short paragraph explaining what it can and can't do, and then hit a button acknowledging you've read it and you want the feature enabled.

If you don't know the limitations, it's because you don't care (you can obviously read or you wouldn't have been able to get through the menus in the first place.)

Autopilot is a perfectly apt phrase. In a plane, autopilot takes over the mundane part of flying - cruising at altitude. In a car, autopilot takes over the mundane part of driving - cruising on the highway.
Rating: 12 Votes
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35 months ago
Autopilot, from Wikipedia: An autopilot is a system used to control the trajectory of a vehicle without constant 'hands-on' control by a human operator being required. Autopilots do not replace a human operator, but assist them in controlling the vehicle [...]
Autopilots do not replace a human operator.
Autopilots do not replace a human operator.

What part of this do people not understand? They give a warning every time they activate the system to stay alert at all times, and if you don't do that and subsequently crash because you thought "the system will not crash me" you're the one to blame.
Rating: 9 Votes
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35 months ago
This has nothing to do with Apple.
Rating: 6 Votes
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35 months ago
Remove the word self until it's out of beta. Assisted driving. Elon is to blame for this confusion. It it were Apple they would have been a lot more conservative when talking about it and would have been clear it wasn't self-driving. Elon allowed people to believe this as a marketing tool. It's backfiring now.
Rating: 5 Votes
Avatar
35 months ago
A comment on Macrumors when the first crash happened was the best suggestion I saw, change the name to 'driving assistant' many would expect 'auto-pilot' to mean self-driving car which it's not.
Rating: 4 Votes
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35 months ago

Autopilot, from Wikipedia: An autopilot is a system used to control the trajectory of a vehicle without constant 'hands-on' control by a human operator being required. Autopilots do not replace a human operator, but assist them in controlling the vehicle [...]
Autopilots do not replace a human operator.
Autopilots do not replace a human operator.

What part of this do people not understand?


The term "autopilot" is not what's in question here.

It's "zidong jiashi", which translates literally as "self driving".

Tesla do not promote their cars as "self driving" in markets other than China.
Rating: 4 Votes
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35 months ago
Wording aside, who buys a car like that without knowing what it can do and what it cannot?
Rating: 3 Votes
Avatar
35 months ago

If you want to have autopilot, you have to go into the car's settings, read through a short paragraph explaining what it can and can't do, and then hit a button acknowledging you've read it and you want the feature enabled.

If you don't know the limitations, it's because you don't care (you can obviously read or you wouldn't have been able to get through the menus in the first place.)

Autopilot is a perfectly apt phrase. In a plane, autopilot takes over the mundane part of flying - cruising at altitude. In a car, autopilot takes over the mundane part of driving - cruising on the highway.

Cars have cruise control which is a perfectly ok term for cars. Planes have autopilot which allows pilots to remove their attention from keeping the plane at a certain altitude or direction. Very different things.
Rating: 3 Votes
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35 months ago
What a twit. Obviously there was no autopilot, there was no ejector seat button or roof mounted rocket.
Rating: 2 Votes
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35 months ago

Meanwhile, people are backing their SUVs over their kids in driveways, due to limited visibility and inattention. This is an actual thing. Shouldn't there be equal - or more - outrage/concern about current things causing actual vehicle-involved child fatalities in driveways, vs. getting worried about what might happen?
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Yep, remember reading an article recently on just that (the decision tree that they'll have to put into the AI of these cars). I think this is something that the NTSB should be debating and deciding NOW, so the structures are in place for autonomous vehicles when the technology gets mature enough.

And, yes, if someone showed up in my driveways with one of these cars, I would be asking if it had this capability in its software (maybe I wouldn't ask them to leave, but may box them in so the car can't run off on its own and harm someone).

The debate over what hackers can do in the Internet of Things era only continues to get more and more interesting (and a little scary). The autonomous car subject (and murder via malware) was actually the subject of an episode of "Elementary" this past season.
Rating: 2 Votes
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