New Tesla Crashes Shows Need to Recall Tesla’s Autopilot Feature, Consumer Watchdog Says

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SANTA MONICA, CA – A growing list of Tesla crashes demonstrates the urgent need to regulate the vehicles’ “Autopilot” feature, Consumer Watchdog said today, reiterating its call to the California DMV to act and for the company to disable the feature.

Earlier this week a Tesla smashed into a construction barrier truck on the German autobahn while traveling at a high rate of speed and likely with Autopilot engaged. Although the car smashed under the truck, the driver was seriously injured, but not killed.

But in early November a Tesla crashed into a tree in Indianapolis and burst into flames killing its two occupants. Investigators are probing whether Autopilot was a factor, but the company says the car was too badly damaged to transmit data to its servers and that it could not be determined if Autopilot was engaged.

The German Department of Transportation has banned use of the term “Autopilot” in Germany, but Tesla is reported to be resisting.

“How many more lives must be lost and crashes happen before Tesla Chairman Elon Musk will take responsibility and act to protect our safety?” asked John M. Simpson, Consumer Watchdog Privacy Project Director.

The crash on the German autobahn was similar to a fatal crash in China in January when the Tesla smashed into a slow-moving truck. In May a Tesla driver using Autopilot was killed when his car smashed under a truck turning in front of him. View a video of the Chinese crash, taken from the doomed vehicle here:

“The problem is that Tesla encourages people to believe Autopilot can do more than it really can,” said Simpson. “The name itself is a huge problem.”

Consumer Watchdog produced a video showing how Tesla and Musk have irresponsibly hyped their vehicles’ capabilities, which has received significant attention online. View Consumer Watchdog’s video here:

Meanwhile, the California DMV has proposed autonomous vehicle regulations that would prevent auto manufacturers from using terms like “autopilot” and “self-driving” when the vehicles are not truly autonomous. The proposed California regulations are part of larger regulatory package and probably won’t take effect for at least a year.

On Tuesday Consumer Watchdog called on the DMV to break-out the advertising regulation from the larger package and immediately start a formal rulemaking to enact it. View Consumer Watchdog’s letter to DMV Director Jean Shiomoto here:

“Tesla should stop using drivers as human guinea pigs and disable autopilot. Musk needs to stop irresponsibly hyping what the feature can do. It’s not self-driving and drivers must be completely engaged with their hands on the wheel,” said Simpson.

View the California DMV’s new draft autonomous vehicle regulations here:

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