Consumer Reports is calling on Tesla to make some serious changes to its ‘Autopilot’ program, including removing it from circulation.
And really, Consumer Reports may be suggesting that Tesla make drastic changes to its hardware. It wants the company to remove Autopilot from cars until “it updates the program to verify that the driver’s hands are on the wheel.” How you’d do that to scale — safely — beyond retooling the steering wheel, we don’t know.
But it wasn’t done there. Citing the fatal crash that thrust Autopilot back into the spotlight, CR is also concerned that the messaging Tesla has for Autopilot is misleading:
Tesla’s own press release for the system announced “Your Autopilot has arrived” and promised to relieve drivers “of the most tedious and potentially dangerous aspects of road travel.” But the release also states that the driver “is still responsible for, and ultimately in control of, the car.
Consumer Reports experts believe 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. It also increases the possibility that drivers using Autopilot may not be engaged enough to to react quickly to emergency situations. Many automakers are introducing this type of semi-autonomous technology into their vehicles at a rapid pace, but Tesla has been uniquely aggressive in its deployment. It is the only manufacturer that allows drivers to take their hands off the wheel for significant periods of time, and the fatal crash has brought the potential risks into sharp relief.
Tesla relies on data
In response to Consumer Reports, Tesla noted that the fatal crash was the first reported while Autopilot was engaged, and that “130 million miles have been driven on Autopilot.”
It went on to say it relies on real-world data, not the advice of advocates and media.
That’s the crux of Consumer Report’s argument, though. It believes users shouldn’t be subject to beta software that can endanger lives. We’ve all seen troubling videos of Tesla owners and their difficulties with Autopilot, even when paying full attention to the road.
It seems Tesla has an all-or-nothing outlook on Autopilot, and will continue to thump its chest about a low body count. Still, it seems that the broad rollout of Autopilot is perhaps a mistake, even if it is the future of driving.