Nio's Autopilot, NOP, Faces Intense Scrutiny With First Fatal Crash in China

There’s no autonomous car for sale yet. Despite that, customers want to believe Level 2 driving aid systems such as Autopilot are better than humans. When reality strikes, it is often too late. Autopilot is not alone with overreliance issues: NOP (Navigation on Pilot) is now officially included in the list as Nio’s ADAS (advanced driver assistance system) just got involved in a fatal crash in China.
Nio ES8 Fatal Crash With Active NOP in Fujian 21 photos
Photo: Putian Police Department
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On August 12, Lin Wenqin, the founder of Chinese restaurant brand Meiyihao, was driving his ES8 on the Shenhai Expressway, in Putian, East China's Fujian Province. NOP was active when his electric crossover rear-ended a working construction vehicle in the Hanjiang section at high speed. Wenqin died instantly.

According to, the entrepreneur trusted NOP so much that he allegedly used it on 3,113 kilometers of the 5,960 km he drove the electric SUV in July. That´s equivalent to 52.2% of all the driving he did in that month. After that, Nio released an official statement saying it was cooperating with the traffic authorities investigating the crash.

The law firm hired by Wenqin’s family then accused Nio of erasing data in his car to escape responsibility in the crash. The automaker’s worker that dealt with the car would then have been summoned by the police. Nio denied that and said its worker “performed a cut-off in the parking lot where the car was parked, but that operation would not cause a data loss."

Nio also said it dispatched a technical team to help with the investigations and read data on the vehicle. The company ended an official statement about the crash saying it would not “release information about the accident until the investigation result is finally confirmed” out of respect for its dead client.

In Nio’s defense, it has never promoted its NOP system as an autonomous driving tech, nor were any of its main executives alleging that its cars would be autonomous at any point. However, that will not make things easier for the Chinese manufacturer if it is not able to prove that it monitors driver attention and that NOP can safely disengage if the driver is acting recklessly.
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About the author: Gustavo Henrique Ruffo
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Motoring writer since 1998, Gustavo wants to write relevant stories about cars and their shift to a sustainable future.
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