The influential and well-respected Consumer Reports has chimed in on all the recent controversy surrounding Tesla‘s Autopilot, calling on the car maker to make significant changes to its autonomous driving feature. The publication wrote earlier this week that it wanted Tesla to rename the technology, feeling the term “Autopilot” to be misleading, and even remove the hands-free system from its cars until it’s proven to be safer.
This request from Consumer Reports is no doubt prompted by the two accidents in recent week involving Teslas that had Autopilot engaged: the first, in early May, saw a Model S crash that resulted in the death of the driver (the first fatality tied to Autopilot), and the second, this month, involved a Model X SUV but saw no injuries.
Tesla has refuted claims that Autopilot was solely to blame in the accidents, especially in the one that resulted in death, since the driver was revealed to have been watching a portable DVD player when the crash took place.
In its statement, Consumer Reports writes that its experts have concluded that many Tesla drivers believe that Autopilot enables their car to drive itself, creating situations where they aren’t paying attention to the road and are unable to react to emergencies in time.
Laura MacCleery, Consumer Reports‘ vice president of consumer policy and mobilization, said:
“By marketing their feature as ‘Autopilot,’ Tesla gives consumers a false sense of security. 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. Tesla should disable automatic steering in its cars until it updates the program to verify that the driver’s hands are on the wheel.”
Tesla quickly issued a response, standing by its cars’ feature and iterating that in over 130 million miles of Autopilot testing, there’s been only one confirmed fatality. The company seems to have no plans of disabling the system or meeting any of Consumer Reports‘ requests, instead saying earlier in the week that will increase its efforts to make sure consumers are educated on how Autopilot actually works.
“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. 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