Car manufacturer Tesla has promised to investigate a video that shows one of its vehicles exploding at a car park in the Chinese city of Shanghai.
- White smoke was seen coming out of the Tesla vehicle for approximately 45 seconds before the explosion
- Tesla has sent a team to investigate the cause of the blaze
- The fire came on the same day as a bold announcement by Elon Musk to create robotaxis by next year
The video, which shows smoke coming from a white car before it bursts into flames, was posted on social media site Weibo.
The vehicle was not moving or being charged at the time of the explosion.
The car maker said it would investigate the matter and that there were no reported casualties.
“We immediately sent a team on site and we’re supporting local authorities to establish the facts,” the company said in a statement.
Tesla did not confirm the car model, but social media users identified it as a Model-S.
It was not the first time this model has had problems with fire, with a Model-S bursting into flames while driving in Los Angeles in June.
Despite the fires, Tesla has previously said petrol-fuelled cars were 10 times more likely to catch fire than those powered by electric batteries.
China is the world’s largest market for electric vehicles, and Tesla chief executive Elon Musk has pledged to build a “Gigafactory” on the outskirts of Shanghai to produce Tesla 3 and Y models.
Tesla boss promises robotic taxis
The explosion in the Shanghai carpark came as Mr Musk announced Tesla would convert its electric cars into fully self-driving vehicles next year as part of an audacious plan to create a network of robotic taxis to compete against Uber and other ride-hailing services.
The vision sketched out on Monday (local time) during an event at Tesla’s Silicon Valley headquarters requires several leaps of faith — something the zealous investors and consumers who view Mr Musk as a technological genius often are willing to take.
But self-driving car experts fear Mr Musk is shirking public safety in an effort to boost Tesla’s stock and sell more of the company’s electric cars. Questions remain about whether the 15-year-old automaker can consistently make money.
“It sounds like a pipe dream that he’s selling people,” said Raj Rajkumar, an electrical and computer engineering professor at Carnegie Mellon University.
“I think it’s basically overpromising, which is typical of Elon Musk.”
To prove his sceptics wrong, Mr Musk will have to persuade regulators that Tesla’s technology for transforming potentially hundreds of thousands of electric cars into self-driving vehicles will produce robots that are safer and more reliable than humans.
And to do that, Mr Musk will have to be correct in his bet that Tesla has come up with a better way to produce self-driving cars than virtually every other of the more than 60 companies in the US working towards the same goal.
Some of those companies are aiming to have their fully autonomous cars begin carrying passengers in small geographic areas as early as this year, but many experts do not believe they will be in widespread use for a decade or more.
Mr Musk, widely known for his swagger as much as his smarts, spent much of the time trying to persuade both the investors and consumers that he had figured out a better way to teach robots how to drive.
“It is fundamentally insane to buy anything other than a Tesla,” Mr Musk said at one point, arguing that purchasing a vehicle from any other automaker would be like getting a horse.
From Mr Musk’s vantage point, Tesla has a huge advantage over autonomous vehicle competitors because it gathers a massive amount of data in the real world.
This quarter, he said Tesla would have 500,000 vehicles on the road, each equipped with eight cameras, ultrasonic sensors and radar-gathering data to help build the company’s neural network, which will serve as the digital equivalent of the self-driving cars’ consciousness.
The network allows vehicles to recognise images, determine what objects are and figure out how to deal with them. To become fully self-driving, the cars also need a special computer that fits behind the glove box and is powered by a special chip Mr Musk boasted is better than any other processor in the world “by a huge margin”.
Finally, Tesla will deliver software updates to those computers to make it possible for its electric cars to be driven by a robot, without a human in position to take over in case something goes awry.
Mr Musk predicted the technology for fully self-driving Teslas will roll out at some point from April to June next year.
Then, Tesla would need to get regulatory approval for the fully autonomous cars to drive on roads, something Mr Musk predicted would happen in a few US states by the end of next year.
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