Govt issues warning on Tesla auto-steering system

October 30, 2015 13:51
About 60,000 owners of Tesla electric cars worldwide have downloaded the auto-steering software. Photo: Bloomberg

The Transport Department has warned owners and drivers of Tesla electric cars in Hong Kong against using the company's new autopilot system, saying that it has not yet received local regulatory approval and could lead to road accidents.

Tesla rolled out a Beta version of the auto-steering software a fortnight ago and as many as 60,000 owners of the electric car brand around the world have downloaded it for their use.

The auto-pilot system is said to allow drivers to run the car with their hands off the wheel.

Apple Daily reporters, in cooperation with a Tesla car owner, conducted 30-minute test drive using the new software, and noted seven instances of potential car accidents while the auto-pilot system was turned on.

Around half of the 3,000 electric cars currently being used in Hong Kong are from Tesla.

Earlier this month, Tesla announced that Model S owners could download the new system, which will control the vehicle’s steering, fuel and brake pedals based on signals from the car’s Global Positioning System, radar, cameras and ultrasonic sensors to determine the positions of nearby vehicles and obstacles.

Videos of the system in use have been uploaded to YouTube, showing Tesla drivers take their hands off the steering wheel while cruising on the highway.

A man, surnamed Tsim, told the newspaper that he bought Tesla's auto-pilot system as an optional feature for HK$19,000 when he acquired his Model S P85D two months ago.

He said he has run into situations that could have resulted in a road accident a few times since he started using the system's latest version, 7.0.

“The system might not work for roads in Hong Kong,” Tsim said. “It works well on long straight roads, but the system makes faulty decisions ahead of turns.”

Tesla’s distributor in Hong Kong said drivers must have their hands on the wheel even when using the new auto-steering system, which was designed to assist drivers and enhance safety.

Ringo Lee Yiu-pui, chairman of The Institute of the Motor Industry Hong Kong, said Tesla's auto-steering system might not work well in the city, where roads are relatively narrow and frequently undergoing repairs.

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