Consumer Reports today called on Tesla Motors to disable the auto steer functions that are part of its Autopilot semi-autonomous driving system. Auto steer allows the car to brake, accelerate, and steer on its own on roadways with lane markings. That part of the system should be deactivated “until it can be reprogrammed to require drivers to keep their hands on the steering wheel,” Consumer Reports says. In addition. it says the name Autopilot is “misleading and potentially dangerous.”
Laura MacCleery, vice president of consumer policy and mobilization for Consumer Reports, said in a statement that self-driving systems “could make our roads safer” eventually, “but today, we’re deeply concerned that consumers are being sold a pile of promises about unproven technology.” That’s quite a change from last October when the consumer watchdog drove a Tesla equipped with Autopilot and reported the system “worked quite well,” considering its limitations.
Elon Musk is not easily diverted from his intended path, however. He refused to disable the system, which could be done with an over the air software update. He fiercely defends the system, which he claims is safer than a human driver. In a statement today, the company said “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.”
Tesla also shows no indication that it plans to rename the system. Even though it is called Autopilot, it comes with a warning every time it is activated that informs drivers they should still keep their hands on the wheel at all times. “Tesla Autopilot functions like the systems that airplane pilots use when conditions are clear,” Tesla said. “The driver is still responsible for, and ultimately in control of, the car. This is enforced with onboard monitoring and alerts. To further ensure drivers remain aware of what the car does and does not see, Tesla Autopilot also provides intuitive access to the information the car is using to inform its actions.”
Despite all those warnings, however, some drivers report being confused about how the system works and when it may disable itself. The company plans to publish a blog post shortly that will help educate drivers about what Autopilot can and cannot do. The fact that such a post is even necessary may be an indication that the Autopilot system does have some legitimate issues. Ambiguity is not helpful when the operation of a two and one half ton motor vehicle is involved.
Source: USA Today