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China court hears case over Tesla fatal crash

A Florida driver died in May after Autopilot failed to detect a truck and collided with it.

Published: 21st September 2016 12:59 PM  |   Last Updated: 21st September 2016 12:59 PM   |  A+A-

By AFP

BEIJING: The father of a Chinese man killed while driving a Tesla sedan has sued the US electric car maker over an alleged fault with its Autopilot system, the family's attorney said Wednesday.

Gao Yaning, the 23-year-old driver, died in January after his Tesla Model S slammed into a road-sweeping vehicle on a highway in the northern province of Hebei. His father Gao Jubin filed the case against the company in June, lawyer Cui Qiuna told AFP.

The family believed the son was driving in Tesla's Autopilot mode and accused the firm of overstating the function's capabilities, she said.

During the trial's opening session in Beijing Tuesday, Gao applied for an investigation into whether the autopilot was activated when the accident occurred, she added.

Gao has demanded Tesla stop using the phrase "automatic driving" in its promotion of Autopilot, publicly apologise for false advertising and pay 10,000 yuan ($1,500) in compensation for the family's grief caused by the son's death, Cui said.

"Tesla has been contacting Mr. Gao for a talk over reconciliation conditions but has yet to put forward a concrete solution," she said.

Tesla in August rephrased its description of the Autopilot system in some advertisements but "some of their staffers and their pamphlets are still using terms like 'automatic driving'", Cui said.

Tesla officials did not respond to AFP's request for comment on Wednesday.

The company has said the Autopilot system, introduced last year, is not a fully autonomous system and drivers are cautioned that they need to be at the wheel and in control. 

The system allows the vehicle to automatically change lanes, manage speed and brake to avoid a collision. The system may be overridden by the driver. 

A Florida driver died in May after Autopilot failed to detect a truck and collided with it.

Tesla said last week it was upgrading the software to use more advanced radar technology.

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