Another voice has weighed in on Tesla’s semi-autonomous AutoPilot system, calling it “misleading and potentially dangerous.”
Consumer Reports (CR) has sent a message to Tesla, requesting four different actions be taken to make its semi-autonomous AutoPilot system safer. This is in the wake of a string of crashes, one of which was fatal, that all took place while AutoPilot was active. These crashes have also spurred the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) to begin an investigation into AutoPilot.
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CR wants Tesla to deactivate the AutoSteer function until it can be reprogrammed to require drivers to have their hands on the wheel, for Tesla to stop calling it AutoPilot, for clearer guidance to be issued to owners before the system is used and that no more systems still in beta-testing be released to the public.
“By marketing their feature as ‘Autopilot,’ Tesla gives consumers a false sense of security,” said Laura MacCleery, vice president of consumer policy and mobilization for Consumer Reports. “In the long run, advanced active safety technologies in vehicles could make our roads safer. But today, we’re deeply concerned that consumers are being sold a pile of promises about unproven technology. ‘Autopilot’ can’t actually drive the car, yet it allows consumers to have their hands off the steering wheel for minutes at a time,” said MacCleery.
While other automakers are also selling semi-autonomous driving systems like Tesla’s, AutoPilot is the only one that allows the driver to take their hands off the wheel for minutes at a time. During Consumer Reports testing, it took more than three minutes for a warning to pop up, asking the driver to put their hands back in the wheel. Other semi-autonomous systems will only let you remove your hands for a few seconds before you are prompted to retake control.
Tesla has always stated that even with AutoPilot engaged, the driver is “still responsible for, and ultimately in control of, the car,” but Consumer Reports feels as though Tesla’s messaging is confusing consumers by saying things like, “your Autopilot has arrived.” In Tesla’s own words, the system can “automatically steer down the highway, change lanes, and adjust speed in response to traffic.”
CR believes that this mixed messaging creates a situation where the driver may not be engaged enough to react to a dangerous situation, even though they are expected to ultimately have control of the car.
Consumer Reports contacted Tesla about its concerns. “Tesla is constantly introducing enhancements, proven over millions of miles of internal testing, to ensure that drivers supported by Autopilot remain safer than those operating without assistance,” responded the company. “We will continue to develop, validate, and release those enhancements as the technology grows. While we appreciate well-meaning advice from any individual or group, we make our decisions on the basis of real-world data, not speculation by media.”
[Source: Consumer Reports]