Friday, July 15, 2016

Consumer Reports calls on Tesla to disable, rename autopilot feature.

The Washington Post (7/14, Bogage, 9.18M) reports that on Thursday, Consumer Reports called for “Tesla to disable its semiautonomous autopilot mode in the wake of a May crash fatality in which autopilot failed to alert a driver of an oncoming vehicle.” Consumer Reports wrote in a blog post, “While the exact cause of the fatal accident is not yet known, the incident has caused safety advocates, including Consumer Reports, to question whether the name Autopilot, as well as the marketing hype of its roll-out, promoted a dangerously premature assumption that the Model S was capable of truly driving on its own.” According to the Washington Post, the magazine “asked Tesla to disable autopilot’s ‘autosteer’ system, issue new guidance to drivers about the system’s use, discontinue beta releases of semiautonomous technology and rename the autopilot feature.”
        Bloomberg News (7/14, Hull, 2.07M) reports that the article called Tesla’s Autopilot “Too Much Autonomy Too Soon.” Vice president of consumer policy and mobilization for Consumer Reports Laura MacCleery said, “By marketing their feature as ‘Autopilot,’ Tesla gives consumers a false sense of security.” The article continues, “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.” MacCleery appears on CNBC’s Power Lunch (7/14, 282K) to discuss the story further.
        The Los Angeles Times (7/14, Peltz, 4.09M) reports that Tesla “has emphasized that Autopilot is still in a beta phase of introduction and has limitations” and has warned drivers “to stay alert and keep their hands on the steering wheel because the technology does not provide fully autonomous driving.” However, Consumer Reports says that “these two messages – your vehicle can drive itself but you may need to take over the controls at a moment’s notice – create potential for driver confusion.” The magazine added, “It also increases the possibility that drivers using Autopilot may not be engaged enough to react quickly to emergency situations.”
        Business Insider (7/14, 3.06M) reports that the consumer magazine also called on Tesla to “test all safety-critical systems fully before public deployment; no more beta releases.”
        Reuters (7/14, Shepardson), MLive (MI) (7/14, Muller, 762K), and Manufacturing (7/14, Szal, 5K) also report on the story.
        Tesla, Musk decline to disable or rename system. The AP (7/14, Krisher, Durbin) reports that “a Tesla spokeswoman said the company has no plans to change the name, and that data it collects show drivers who use Autopilot are safer than those who don’t.”

        USA Today (7/14, Bomey, 6.31M) mentions that Tesla’s comments come after the NHTSA and the NTSB announced investigations of a fatal crash involving a Tesla Model S while in Autopilot mode. The article adds that “Tesla CEO Elon Musk has refused to disable the system, which could be done through an over-the-air software update, and has instead repeatedly defended it and said it’s safer than human driving.” In a statement released Thursday, the company said, “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.” 

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