No cause yet in fatal Tesla crash

Tesla has been involved in over 30 litigations in China since 2012, but has been exonerated in most cases.

Photo by Kuang Da

Photo by Kuang Da

By ZHANG Mingrui


The cause of a fatal Tesla crash in Chaozhou on Sunday night is still shrouded in finger-pointing. Footage shows a Tesla Model Y suddenly accelerating when trying to park and blasting down the road for 2.6 kilometers before crashing into a store, killing two and injuring three, including the driver. 

At one point it was moving at 198 miles per hour. The driver claims the brake didn’t work, but Tesla says there was no evidence the brake was applied at all. 

The central component of Tesla’s brake is an iBooster device made by Bosch, which can be activated either automatically or by the driver. But the Tesla driver in this case said the brake didn’t yield even when he applied full pressure on it, and that the car failed to slow down when he finally managed to clamp it down. Tesla, after checking its back-end data, decided that the driver was pressing on the accelerator the whole time. No brake activity was detected. 

At least three accidents have been blamed on Tesla brake failures in China in the past two years. In response to an earlier incident involving iBooster, CHEN Yudong, President of Bosch China, said iBooster is used by many brands, and that he would personally guarantee its safety. 

The discrepancy in the two parties’ claims has raised suspicion of data tampering, but investigators have determined it unlikely. Accident data is stored in a device called event data recorder (EDR). Not only is EDR extremely hard to hack, tampering with one data point would entail making up entire datasets. Investigators will need to examine the vehicle and the crash site before saying more. 

The driver may face criminal charges if found responsible. But if Tesla is at fault, it will be liable for damages and obligated to recall its cars. Tesla has been involved in over 30 litigations in China since 2012, but has been exonerated in most cases. It had to recall some models in May due to a defect in the autosteer and automatic emergency braking functions.