Earlier this month, we learned of a Tesla Model S crash in Beijing where the car was indeed in Autopilot mode and the driver didn’t have his hands on the wheel (which is illegal in China). He was using his phone instead. Yet he complained that Tesla’s “Autopilot” phrasing is a poor and inaccurate marketing tactic. Now Tesla has removed the phrase from its Chinese website. Coincidence?
To be precise, the term “自动驾驶,” which most literally translates to self- or automatic driving, was removed from the Model S sedan webpage late last night, reports Reuters.
Tesla told Reuters, “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 its place, “a phrase that translates as ‘self-assisted driving’ is used.”
This is closer to how Tesla markets the Autopilot feature here in the United States.
Despite this though, Reuters also notes that:
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.
Whether or not Tesla pulled the original phrasing from its website in the wake of the Beijing fender-bender, it’s evidence of the fact that the Autopilot system is still extremely young in its development. Hiccups like translation issues can only be ironed out over time.