Chinese telecoms giant Huawei Technologies Co has removed the executive in charge of its smart driving unit after he sparked controversy by telling a conference audience that the self-driving technology used by Tesla was “killing” people.
Su Qing, director of the smart driving product department under the company’s intelligent automotive solution business unit, was removed Tuesday.
On Thursday, Huawei said in a statement that Su had “made inappropriate comments on Tesla while participating in an external event and talking about autonomous driving technology and safety”.
Su will be reassigned to a new position, which has not been decided yet. Honglin Bian, president of hardware engineering at Huawei’s Consumer Business Group, will take over Su’s post in the interim, Huawei said.
At the World Artificial Intelligence Conference in Shanghai earlier this month, Su said, “Tesla vehicles have had a rather high accident rate in the past few years. From the killing of the first person to the most recent person, the nature of the accidents is very similar.”
“I use the word ‘killing’ here. It may sound too serious to some. But come to think of it, if machines enter human society and we have a human-machine symbiosis, machines will most definitely cause accidents. To put it more plainly, it is killing people,” he added.
Tesla has not commented publicly on Su’s speech.
However, a video clip of the remarks was widely shared on Chinese social media, sparking controversy as many Chinese technology firms are eying the smart vehicle market. On Weibo, China’s top microblogging site, the clip has attracted over 330,000 views.
Huawei itself has invested in developing autonomous driving solutions, with the Shenzhen-based giant signing deals with scores of carmakers.
The move signalled Huawei’s efforts to find new revenue sources after its core business of telecommunications and smartphones took a major hit when US sanctions imposed in 2019 blocked the company from acquiring key software and components.
In April, Huawei unveiled its Huawei HI intelligent automotive system, incorporating computers, 4D imaging radar, an autonomous driving platform, and intelligent thermal management. It runs on Huawei’s Harmony OS and in-house lidar chip, and has 5G connectivity.
The Arcfox Alpha-S electric sedan is equipped with Huawei’s HI smart car platform. Photo: Bloomberg
In the same month, Chinese carmaker Arcfox launched the first electric vehicle (EV) fitted with the new lidar-based Huawei HI system.
Tesla, which holds a significant lead in China’s premium electric vehicle market, has had to deal with multiple public relation crises in the country in recent months.
Last month, it recalled more than 285,000 EVs in China because of safety concerns about the cruise control function.
Tesla’s troubles in China began after an April 19 incident when a woman, in a T-shirt emblazoned with the words “brake malfunction” and the Tesla logo, jumped onto a Tesla vehicle displayed at the Shanghai Auto Show, blaming the firm for the crash of her Model 3.