After the Consumer Watchdog calling for the Tesla to disable the Autopilot following the recent fatal Model S crash while the system was activated, now the respected Consumer Reports magazine is weighing in and also asking Tesla to walk back some of the Autopilot features.
Tesla already responded to the publication saying that they are taking decisions based on “real-world data, not speculation by media”.
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In an article published this morning titled ‘Tesla’s Autopilot: Too Much Autonomy Too Soon‘, Consumer Reports issued a list of four demands:
- Disable Autosteer until it can be reprogrammed to require drivers to keep their hands on the steering wheel
- Stop referring to the system as “Autopilot” as it is misleading and potentially dangerous
- Issue clearer guidance to owners on how the system should be used and its limitations
- Test all safety-critical systems fully before public deployment; no more beta releases
To be fair, Tesla already sends an alert on the dashboard asking owners to keep their hands on the wheel every time they activate the Autosteer feature, which actively steer the vehicle in the middle of its lane. Tesla also recommends using the feature only on roads with a center divider.
The second point is definitely up for interpretation and Consumer Reports is not the first to bring up the issue, but Tesla CEO Elon Musk often said that the name is based on an autopilot system in aviation, which relieves the pilot of a plane from some of the workload, but still requires him to stay vigilant and monitor the plane to be ready to take over at any moment.
Tesla is reportedly already working on the third point. Musk said earlier this week that Tesla was writing a blog post to better explain “how Autopilot works as a safety system and what drivers are expected to do after they activate it.”
As for the fourth and final point, Consumer Reports is implying that Tesla didn’t “test all safety-critical systems fully before public deployment” because it uses the term “beta”. It is understandably misleading, but Musk defended the use of the word ‘beta’ earlier this week, and stated that it doesn’t mean Tesla didn’t extensively test the features in-house, but that there’s no substitute for real-world use.
Here’s Tesla’s response to Consumer Reports’ demands:
“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.”
Featured Image: A member of the media test drives a Tesla Motors Inc. Model S car equipped with Autopilot in Palo Alto, California, U.S., on Wednesday, Oct. 14, 2015. Photographer: David Paul Morris/Bloomberg