Fatal Tesla crash in China may have involved Autopilot

Chinese driver's family sued Tesla after a Model S hit a street sweeper.

Another fatal Tesla Model S crash is under investigation, this time in China. Reports are now surfacing of a Model S driver who was tragically killed when his car hit a street sweeping vehicle on the side of a highway in the province of Hebei. The family of 23-year-old Gao Yaning reportedly sued Tesla over the incident, saying that Autopilot failed to prevent the accident.

But was Autopilot engaged? "Because of the damage caused by the collision, the car was physically incapable of transmitting log data to our servers and we therefore have no way of knowing whether or not Autopilot was engaged at the time of the crash," Tesla said in a statement. The automaker maintains that it has "repeatedly" tried to work with Gao's father — the owner of the car — to investigate the crash, "but he has not provided us with any additional information that would allow us to do so."

Dashcam footage (which can be seen in the video above about 35 seconds in) shows that the Model S did not appear to slow down or attempt to avoid the vehicle in the moments before the crash. The truck was partially in the lane in which Gao was driving on the left side of the road at the time.

Tesla's owner's manual warns that its system cannot detect and react to all stationary objects or vehicles in its path, and warns drivers to "Always pay attention to the road ahead and stay prepared to take immediate corrective action." Tesla also recently updated its Chinese website regarding Autopilot after a previously reported crash in China. Regardless of responsibility, this incident is sure to raise more questions about the safety of Tesla's Autopilot system, as well as autonomous driving as a whole.

In the only other known fatality involved with Autopilot, Joshua Brown died in a crash in Model S in Florida in May.

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