Tesla Takes Away 'Autopilot' Term From Its Chinese Website After Crash

Illustration for article titled Tesla Takes Away 'Autopilot' Term From Its Chinese Website After Crash

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.

Writer at Jalopnik and consumer of many noodles.



This is the problem when your product terminology is put together by technical pedants instead of actual marketing people... at least that’s the only excuse I can think of here that makes sense.

I know actual plane autopilot does very little in most cases besides hold a course, and a human pilot still needs to be ready at all times. Trained pilots and aviation experts obviously know it, as do most of the more technically minded among us. The average layman does not and that should not be news to anyone.

Between the fact that the two root words “auto” and “pilot” literally break down to “self controlling” and the fact that popular culture for the last 50-odd years has beat the perception into random schmucks that “autopilot” is what it literally sounds like, Tesla quite frankly should have known better than to use that name despite the pedantry over it.