The number of consumer-advocacy organizations calling for Tesla to do something about its much-criticized Autopilot system is growing.
Consumer Reports called for Tesla to "disable hands-free operation until its system can be made safer" Thursday morning. What's more, it urged the upstart automaker to change the system's name to better reflect its capabilities.
"By marketing their feature as ‘Autopilot,’ Tesla gives consumers a false sense of security," says Laura MacCleery, vice president of consumer policy and mobilization for Consumer Reports.
"'Autopilot' can't actually drive the car, yet it allows consumers to have their hands off the steering wheel for minutes at a time," MacCleery added. "Tesla should disable automatic steering in its cars until it updates the program to verify that the driver's hands are on the wheel."
Tesla responded to Consumer Reports with a statement: “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.”
The move follows two Tesla-confirmed vehicle crashes that occurred while Autopilot was engaged. On May 7, a Model S collided with a tractor trailer, which resulted in the first Autopilot-related fatality and sparked a National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) investigation. The second, involving a Model X, occurred in Montana last week and resulted in no injuries.
Consumer Reports isn't the only consumer advocate group to call for changes to Autopilot. Consumer Watchdog sent a letter to Elon Musk last week demanding Tesla disable the system in Tesla vehicles immediately.
Likely, this isn't the last call for Tesla to either disable or greatly change Autopilot that we'll see.