Man Crashes Tesla on Autopilot Due To Chinese Translation Error
Tesla is back in the news with another autopilot crash. However, this autopilot crash doesn’t actually involve the car being on autopilot.
Apparently, a driver in Beijing turned on “Autopilot” mode, only to end up sideswiping a parked car. As it turns out, the meaning of “Autopilot” was lost in translation on Tesla’s Chinese website, which described the new technology using the phrase “zidong jiashi”, meaning “Autopilot”. However, the phrase has an unfortunate dual-meaning, as it also means “self-driving”. Hence, drivers have been getting the wrong idea about just what this technology is intended to do.
“At Tesla we are continuously making improvements, including to translations,” said Tesla spokeswoman Khobi Brooklyn in an official statement. “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.”
The “Autopilot” on the Tesla is intended to be a driver assist system rather than a driver replacement. The Beijing driver didn’t have his hands on the wheel at the time of the crash, which is what initiated the accident, since the “Autopilot” system requires that the driver keep both hands on the wheel. In essence, the driver must be able to take over the wheel at a moment’s notice. You don’t get to just sit back and let the car drive itself.
I guess this is a valuable teaching moment for Tesla, and for other automotive manufacturers who might not pay that much attention to the kinds of things they write on their websites. Hopefully, we don’t have any more completely avoidable Tesla crashes this summer.