Tesla will help Chinese authorities investigate a tragic Tesla Model Y crash in Guangdong, China that left two people dead and three injured. But rumors have been circulating on social media with potential causes of the crash, most of which are either untrue or impossible.
The accident happened on November 5 and a video circulated on Chinese social networks. CCTV video shows (warning: graphic) a Tesla Model Y trying to park, then speeding down a two-lane road, zigzagging between lanes at high speed, sweeping past cars and motorbikes before finally crashing into a storefront store about 30 seconds and 2.6 kilometers later.
An unnamed family member of the 55-year-old driver said the driver had trouble with the brake pedal as he was about to pull over outside the family store, as reported by Jimu News. As far as we know, the driver survived with injuries.
Tesla, as is often the case, claimed that vehicle logs show that the brake pedal was not depressed during the incident and the accelerator pedal was depressed for a significant portion of the event, and warned against people who believe “rumors” about the incident. CCTV video shows the brake lights were not on in the rear shots of the car, although they appear to come on shortly after around 23 seconds into the incident.
Guangdong police will work with a third-party agency to assess vehicle logs and CCTV footage to determine the truth of the incident.
(Warning: People are dying in this video, although it’s not immediately apparent from the footage. Sensitive people may still not want to watch)
Tesla has faced other accusations of brake pedal malfunctions in the past, including from a Chinese customer who staged a protest at its Shanghai auto show booth, claiming an accident she was in was the result of brake failure. These accusations are not just limited to China, Tesla has also received numerous complaints in the United States, which it responded to in a blog post claiming that “there is no ‘unintended acceleration’ in the Tesla vehicles”.
These complaints were reviewed by NHTSA which found that incidents of sudden, unintended acceleration of Teslas were the result of driver error and not a flaw in vehicle design. The NHTSA reminds drivers that there are 16,000 preventable accidents a year in the United States due to pedal error and warns drivers to be aware of this problem.
That hasn’t stopped social media from swirling with rumors of Tesla’s latest crash. On both Chinese and English social media, numerous posts suggest various unproven causes, most of which do not hold up to basic scrutiny.
Some claimed the vehicle attempted to park automatically, then went haywire, running at high speed. But the kind of swerving and hard-accelerating behavior shown in the video is not characteristic of autopilot, let alone autopark, and both would have been disabled by pressing the brake pedal at any time.
Others have stated that the vehicle’s engine is too powerful for the brakes to overcome, but since the brake lights were not on and the vehicle’s brakes are designed to overcome the force of the engine, this explanation is not satisfactory either.
The charges are similar to those that have occurred with other vehicles. Notably, Toyota faced a “sudden and unintended acceleration” recall in 2009-2011, where the automaker recalled various parts of its vehicles in response to a slight increase in unintended acceleration reports. Although design flaws in the floor mats or gas pedals may have contributed to some cases, most cases turned out to be driver error issues – and were more common among older drivers and not qualified. More and more reports followed media coverage of the issue, with more reports coming in as media coverage intensified.
China is Tesla’s second largest market. The company has recently started to pull demand levers, including cutting prices, in response to falling sales in the country.
While it’s entirely possible that there is an unexamined cause here, it’s almost certainly the same cause as in these situations: Someone pressed the wrong pedal, then continued to press it when he panicked.
That doesn’t mean there can’t be a design flaw. I’ve noticed first-time Tesla drivers cross the pedals (i.e. they accidentally press both pedals at the same time) maybe more often than I expected in a vehicle. The position of the pedals may be a little closer than it should be, although I’m not an engineer with any particular expertise in pedal safety regulations, so take that with a grain of salt . Also, whenever this happens, the car displays a warning about crossed pedals and automatically cuts power to the throttle, favoring the brake over the throttle, so this cannot be the cause of this accident.
But attributing this to autopilot just doesn’t make sense. This is clearly not autopilot behavior, as anyone familiar with the system (and aware of its downsides) can tell. I would bet that the third party investigation will reveal that the driver was just pressing the accelerator the whole time and that was human error, as it is in many many accidents. So why so much talk about this particular Tesla crash?
Tesla is a popular topic on social media – it’s a high profile brand, it’s different and it gets a lot of traffic for a variety of reasons, one of which is because of its CEO who likes to be the center of attention . Whenever something happens with Tesla, people talk about it – there are fatal crashes in various cars every day, most of which don’t generate as many social media discussions or articles (like this- ci, sigh) about them. People always have something to say about Tesla.
The presence of the ‘rumors’ that Tesla has been warning about on social media is especially expected right now, given that it’s been quite popular to ‘dunk’ Tesla CEO Elon Musk lately due to his recent behavior and the dumpster fire associated with his purchase of the very social media platform where many of these rumors are circulating: twitter.
Twitter has long been a source of fast-spreading misinformation, in which Musk himself has participated. He regularly spread misinformation about COVID-19 and other topics, while promising that his purchase of the company would result in the removal of safeguards meant to protect against misinformation on the social media site. For example, he recently tweeted (and later deleted) that “there is a small possibility that there is more to this story than meets the eye”, echoing a false and bigoted conspiracy theory. regarding a violent attack on Paul Pelosi, husband of the US President. of Nancy Pelosi House.
This kind of active misinformation spread by the CEO of Twitter and Tesla naturally leads to public resentment that the richest man in the world spends so much of his time and effort polluting news feeds. instead of fixing his businesses. So a number of people won’t be interested in seeing “his side” of the story and will actively be suspicious of anything he or Tesla has to say, because he puts so much public effort into spreading misinformation lately. time.
If Tesla’s mission is to “accelerate the advent of sustainable transportation” – and they are the company most responsible for electrification right now – so it doesn’t seem particularly productive for the CEO to spend so much time spreading misinformation on social media, turning public opinion against him, his company and his mission . We would like to see less.
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