Chinese electric vehicle startup Nio said it did not tamper with evidence needed for an ongoing investigation into a crash that killed a person who had been driving one of the company's cars with its self-driving system activated.
An obituary published Saturday on a public WeChat account named "Meiyihao" said Lin Wenqin, an entrepreneur who ran restaurant chain and other businesses, died in a crash on a highway in Southeast China's Fujian Province on Aug. 12 while driving his Nio ES8 SUV. The obituary said that the car's automated driving function, or Navigate on Pilot (NOP), was enabled when the incident happened. Lin was 31 years old.
Lin's death once again raised public concerns over the safety of advanced driver assistance systems and pushed the price of Nio's U.S.-listed stock down 5.87% to close at $38.62 on Monday.
In a statement released late Monday, the Shanghai-based automaker said that it "did not delete or modify any data" stored in Lin's car after the crash, in a response to media reports which quoted a Beijing-based lawyer representing Lin's family as saying that a Nio technician had been subpoenaed by police after accessing the car without their approval.
"In the afternoon of Aug. 13, Nio's technical staff conducted the first vehicle data extraction [after the traffic accident] in front of Lin's relatives and police," Nio said, adding that it will cooperate with the police investigation and provide all the materials needed.
The company also said it will not release information about the crash until the investigation results are published. According to Nio's statement, Lin died after his car collided with another vehicle on the highway.
In October 2020, Nio released NOP, which it said combines the functions of navigation, high-definition mapping and Nio Pilot, an advanced driver assistance system similar to Tesla's Autopilot and Xpeng's Xpilot. The company said that NOP can guide a vehicle along navigation routes in certain situations, like helping the car choose the optimal lane at high speeds.
The company has also laid out the limitations of the technology. In an article published on the company's website on the eve of the NOP launch, Zhang Jianyong, associate vice president of autonomous driving at Nio, strongly reminded Nio owners of the differences between NOP and true self-driving systems. Zhang said NOP is unable to react to moving objects and traffic lights and cannot be used in inclement weather and complex road conditions.
"NOP remains a driver assistance function that may stop working when certain conditions are not met. When using the function, drivers must pay constant attention to the changes of traffic conditions," Zhang wrote.
The fatal crash came three weeks after Nio began shipping the first of its flagship ES8 SUVs from Shanghai to Norway in its initial attempt to gain market share outside China, where it has maintained high sales growth for several quarters.
In the second quarter of this year, Nio said that it delivered 21,896 vehicles, more than double the number in the same period last year.
Nio is among several automakers that have been troubled by crashes associated with driver assistance systems. On Monday, the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration launched a formal probe into Tesla's Autopilot after a series of crashes in which a Tesla vehicle struck one or more vehicles while Autopilot was engaged, according to The Wall Street Journal.
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