Car manufacturers often park their vehicles in the middle of busy city pockets as a way to market and advertise new cars, but typically, the car is in a blocked-off display, off the road. Not this time in China. According to reports, Chinese car startup Nio recently got a lesson in free publicity when its vehicle stopped traffic on a popular Beijing street after supposedly shutting down for a software update during a test drive. No such thing as bad press, right?
According to the South China Morning Post (SCMP), the car (it is not specified which model it was) came to a halt on Chang’an Avenue, one of the most popular areas in the capitol, and interrupted traffic. Nio took to social media outlet Weibo to confirm the accident and explain what happened. Nio says the driver inadvertently prompted an over-the-air update on the infotainment screen, despite this requiring confirmation. Nio used the platform to post screenshots of the several steps it takes to complete this type of update but apologized and said it will review and improve the user interface.
As everybody knows, technology often cannot be used while it is updating, which is why Nio suggests parking the car in a safe, out-of-the-way place before doing so. In this instance, once the update was initiated, the screens went blank, and the car began its process, which reportedly lasted more than an hour. The two occupants were forced to sit inside while police attempted to resolve the situation, but nothing could be done.
The China-based company has aspirations to become a leader in the autonomous electric vehicle space and has been in headlines for numerous reasons throughout the past few years. Nio has already delivered its 644-horsepower ES8 EV crossover to customers, its EP9 supercar has left its mark in the Nurburgring record books, it pissed off Faraday Future when it unveiled its wild EVE Concept, and went through a roller coaster ride when it launched an IPO. Most recently, it launched its third model, the smaller ES6 electric crossover.
Although the incident has resulted in the expected jokes about the irony of a smart car getting stuck, this really isn’t such a bad thing for Nio. It wasn’t a technological failure related to the drivetrain, so the company’s reputation for reliability may not have been damaged. In reality, there were likely hundreds of people who walked by the car and learned about the company for the first time. Startups can use as many headlines as they can get, even if they are of the viral variety.