In an unusual move, Consumer Reports has called Tesla’s Autopilot “Too Much Autonomy Too Soon” and called on the automaker to disable the hands-free feature until its safety can be improved. The system has come under increased scrutiny in the wake of a fatal May 7 crash in Florida, which U.S. safety regulators are investigating.
“By marketing their feature as ‘Autopilot,’ Tesla gives consumers a false sense of security,” said Laura MacCleery, vice president of consumer policy and mobilization for Consumer Reports, in the article published Thursday. 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.”
More than 70,000 Tesla cars are equipped with Autopilot worldwide, and drivers must actively choose to engage the system. In a blog post about the Florida accident, Tesla stressed that those cars have driven more than 130 million miles while using the feature, giving Tesla valuable data in real-world driving conditions. Some customers see the system as an enormous asset during grueling commutes, but YouTube is also filled with videos of people taking risks with it.