Consumer Reports says Tesla should drop Autopilot name

From The Associated Press:

DETROIT (AP) — Consumer Reports said Thursday that Tesla Motors is misleading car owners by calling its semi-autonomous driving system “Autopilot,” potentially giving them too much trust in their car’s ability to drive itself.

The influential magazine said Tesla should drop the Autopilot name and disconnect the automatic steering system until it’s updated to make sure a driver’s hands stay on the wheel at all times. The system currently warns drivers after a few minutes of their hands being off the wheel.

In an email, 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.

With its statement, Consumer Reports joined a debate over autonomous driving technology that escalated after authorities revealed that Joshua Brown, 40, of Canton, Ohio, died in a May crash in Florida with the Autopilot on in his 2015 Model S. The system didn’t detect a tractor-trailer that had turned in front of the car in bright sunshine, and Brown also failed to react.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is investigating the wreck and the functioning of the Autopilot system. After the Brown crash, critics accused Tesla of giving drivers access to a system that wasn’t ready, while supporters contended the company was improving automotive safety.

Tesla’s Autopilot system uses cameras, radar and computers to detect objects and automatically brake if the car is about to hit something. It also can steer the car to keep it centered in its lane. The company says that before Autopilot can be used, drivers must acknowledge that it’s an “assist feature” that requires both hands on the wheel at all times. Drivers …

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