Concerns about Tesla car’s safety are spreading. On December 9, a Tesla car, Model X, collided with a wall at an apartment parking lot in Yongsan-gu, Seoul, South Korea, resulting in the death of the passenger. Lithium-ion batteries are cited as the reason for the fire, but the reason why the passenger was not saved was that fire rescue workers who were dispatched to the door of Model X could not open the door.
An investigation is needed to determine whether Tesla’s electric vehicle violated safety standards. The Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport is considering recalling the model and requested data from the manufacturer. Tesla’s data will be reviewed along with the results of an accident investigation by the National Forensic Service and the Korea Transportation Safety Institute.
However, the problem is that Korea’s domestic safety standards do not apply to some imported cars. Currently, Article 102 of the “Rules on the Performance and Standards of Automobiles and auto parts (“Rules”) stipulates that at least one door should be opened per row of seats so that all passengers can come out without using tools in the event of a vehicle crash.
Korean automakers prepare for situations where passenger rescue is needed due to crashes and fires. The “CRASH UNLOCK” function allows the door lock to be released during a collision. A structure that is mechanically connected through a door lock (latch) and cable is applied. Regardless of whether the vehicle loses power or not, the door can be opened manually by operating the handle.
However, Tesla cars are not in compliance with such rules. According to media reports, Tesla said, “Under the Korea-U.S. free trade agreement, U.S. cars that sold less than 50,000 cars a year in South Korea only need to comply with U.S. safety standards, and there is no regulation in the U.S. that the doors must be opened in case of a car crash.”
In addition, Article 110 of the Rules stipulates that “speed indicators must be located within the range of the driver’s direct clock” as the standards for the “speedometer” displayed on the dashboard. This is why existing automakers place instrument panels on the front of the steering wheel. However, Tesla cars are violating these regulations.
The reason for the existence of the clause in the Korea-U.S. FTA is to reduce non-tariff barriers. However, safety needs to come first and stricter regulation would have to be applied. Strong measures are required from the government. The relevant statutes, such as the “Automobile Safety Management Act,” shall be amended to apply the safety standards equally to domestic and imported vehicles.
Korea-U.S. FTA avoids domestic safety regulations and imposes “order fees” even if the contract is canceled. (n.d.). Retrieved December 28, 2020, from https://jmagazine.joins.com/economist/view/330256
Lee, S. (n.d.). Tesla needs to review corrective action to comply with domestic safety standards. Retrieved December 28, 2020, from http://digitalbizon.com/View.aspx?No=1395826