Tesla Model S Crash: Fatal Incident Sparks Lawsuit In China, Autopilot To Blame?

Sep 15, 2016 05:28 AM EDT | Julie Bedas

The fatal crash that killed Gao Yaning, 23, took place in China last January 20. Tesla came under scrutiny when new details surfaced from a Chinese media company, CCTV, in a report on Wednesday.

A Fatal Accident

The footage showed the Tesla Model S as it slammed into an orange truck on a highway in Heibei province.

"When it was approaching the road sweeper, the car didn't put on the brake or avoid it. Instead, it crashed right into it," a police officer said according to a report from The New York Times.  

These recent developments to the story came after Tesla's announcement about its new upgrade to its semi-autonomous Autopilot driving system. CCTV has confirmed that the car was in Autopilot when the accident happened. However, Tesla insists that this hasn't been determined. 

Autopilot to Blame? 

The owner of the Tesla and father of the victim, Gao Jubin, believed that his son was relying on the vehicle's Autopilot feature, which was why he wasn't watching the road. Tesla has expressed its regret over the death of their customer's son.  

It also added in a statement that since the car was not able to transmit any log data at the time of the crash, there was no way of knowing whether the ill-fated Model S' Autopilot was indeed engaged or not. Tesla also claimed that it has repeatedly tried to work with the customer (Jubin) to investigate further but no additional information has been added to help the case. 

Victim's Family Sues Tesla

Gao's family is suing both Tesla and the dealer for the accident. The family's lawyer said in a report that it was to "to let the public know that self-driving technology has some defects."

Just months after the China crash, Joshua Brown, another Tesla owner, was killed in another fatal collision in Florida. The accident is still being reviewed by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, but safety officials have confirmed that the car was in Autopilot when it was hit by a turning truck in front. 

Tesla has said that the purpose of the Autopilot is to assist drivers and that it will not function as a fully autonomous driving system. Drivers must keep their hands on the wheel despite the "Autopilot". 

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