Two months ago, Tesla revised its website in China to make it more clear that the company’s Autopilot assisted-steering feature is not a fully hands-off autonomous driving function. Now, German authorities are calling on the electric vehicle maker to rethink the Autopilot name to avoid any confusion that could lead to dangerous collisions.
Reuters, citing Bild am Sonntag, reports that Germany’s Federal Motor Transport Authority recently sent Tesla a letter, asking the company to stop advertising Autopilot, claiming it could mislead some drivers into thinking that paying attention isn’t necessary when the feature is activated.
According to Tesla marketing materials, Autopilot will let vehicles “steer within a lane, change lanes with the simple tap of a turn signal, and manage speed by using active, traffic-aware cruise control.” It also has other features, like auto-braking, collision avoidance, and automated parallel parking.
A spokesperson for the Federal Motor Transport Authority confirmed that Transport Minister Alexander Dobrindt asked Tesla to no longer use the term Autopilot for the feature, citing concerns that it creates a misunderstanding for drivers.
“In order to prevent misunderstanding and incorrect customers’ expectations, we demand that the misleading term Autopilot is no longer used in advertising the system,” the letter states.
The Authority on Friday issued letters to Tesla owners in the country, warning them not to operate the feature without their constant attention, Reuters reports.
A spokesperson for Tesla said the Autopilot term has been used for decades and that the company always makes it clear that the feature requires driver attention.
“Just as in an airplane, when used properly, Autopilot reduces driver workload and provides an added layer of safety when compared to purely manual driving,” the spokesperson said.
Tesla has been under increased scrutiny this summer over the Autopilot feature, following a fatal collision in Florida. It’s since been confirmed that while the driver was going around 10 miles per hour over the speed limit at the time, the Autopilot feature was engaged.
The car maker said in July that it would not disable Autopilot, but a number of consumer safety advocates — including our colleagues at Consumer Reports — have called Tesla out for the potentially confusing messages surrounding the Autopilot feature.
In August, the owner of a Tesla in Beijing said he crashed the vehicle into a the side of a vehicle that was partially parked in the road while using the feature. Tesla says the driver is to blame for taking his hands off the wheel, while the driver says he was misled about the Autopilot feature.
Shortly after the incident, Tesla said it removed that word, along with another term that means “self-driving,” from its website for customers in China.
Since then, the company has unveiled a software update that it claims will better incorporate the use of radar and increase driver engagement safety checks.
by Ashlee Kieler via Consumerist