News of a second crash involving Tesla Motors' semiautonomous driving system has raised questions about how early Tesla knew drivers may have been misusing the technology.
Media outlets in China this week reported that the family of a Chinese man who died in January is suing Tesla over the crash.
The accident, which occurred four months before Joshua Brown fatally crashed his Tesla Model S into a tractor-trailer in Florida while Autopilot was activated, happened when 23-year-old Gao Yaning slammed into a slow-moving truck, according to the Associated Press. Officials told local broadcast stations that Autopilot had been engaged at the time of the crash.
Tesla said the damage done to the car in the accident makes it impossible to tell whether Autopilot was engaged. "We take any incident with our vehicles very seriously and immediately reached out to our customer when we learned of the crash," a Tesla spokeswoman said in a statement.
The China lawsuit would be the first involving Autopilot to be logged against the automaker. Tesla has come under scrutiny since Brown's death was made public in June, and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration launched an investigation into the software.
In August, Tesla revised the language on its China website to remove the term "self-driving" after a driver who had crashed while using Autopilot claimed that the company had exaggerated the system's capabilities.
On Sept. 11, CEO Elon Musk said the Autopilot software would be upgraded to rely primarily on radar sensors rather than camera sensors and would require the driver to park the car to reactivate the software if he had been warned to keep his hands on the wheel three times within one hour. The change could have saved Brown's life had it been in effect at the time of the accident, Musk said. That software update is expected to happen Wednesday, Sept 21.
"Perfect safety is an impossible goal," Musk said during a press conference on the Autopilot upgrade. "We are increasing the probability of safety."
The automaker's approach to marketing Autopilot came under fire last week. Tesla's former partner, Mobileye, which manufactured camera sensors for Autopilot, said the automaker was "pushing the envelope in terms of safety" with the semiautonomous driving system.
"It is not designed to cover all possible crash situations in a safe manner," said Mobileye Chairman Amnon Shashua on Wednesday, Sept. 14. He said Tesla's attitude toward hands-off operation of Autopilot was the reason the two companies' relationship dissolved in July.
Tesla uses the term "beta test" for drivers currently deploying the latest version of the Autopilot system, which was introduced in October 2015. During the Sept. 11 press conference, Musk said he uses the term to ensure drivers will be especially cautious when activating the technology.
Other automakers have weighed in on the issue of deploying semiautonomous driving systems before they are ready.
Self-driving technology "could have incredible societal benefits," Raj Nair, Ford Motor Co.'s chief technical officer, told investors at an event last week. "But a premature introduction, an introduction using customers as a development test, in my view, would be inappropriate and could be damaging to the eventual introduction of the right technology."
The situation Brown faced -- approaching the side of a white truck on a cloudy day -- was "one of the scenarios" Ford had been concerned about in rolling out autonomous technology, Nair added.
Reuters and Nick Bunkley contributed to this report.