Santa Monica Consumer Advocate Group Wants Tesla to Disable ‘Autopilot’

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The group said the feature is unsafe and wants the company to take full responsibility to the accidents it caused.

Santa Monica, CA — In the wake of a fatal crash in Florida while the car was in "autopilot" mode, a Santa Monica-based consumer advocate group is calling on Tesla to disable the feature in its cars until the feature is proven safe.

Consumer Watchdog said the company must pledge to accept responsibility if its self-driving technology causes accidents in the future. The group is concerned that Tesla is developing a pattern of blaming victims in crashes when the autopilot feature was engaged.

In a letter to Musk, signed by President Jamie Court, Executive Director Carmen Balber and Privacy Project Director John M. Simpson, the public interest group also criticized Tesla's delay in revealing the fatal Florida accident.

"You made a public acknowledgement on June 30, only when the National Highway Traffic Administration announced it was investigating," the letter said. "Such a delay when your customers remained on public highways relying on autopilot and believing it to be safe is inexcusable."

A driver was killed in Florida on May 7 when a when a tractor-trailer made a left turn in front of the Tesla, which had its autopilot feature on, at an intersection, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

Telsa said its autopilot system was confused by the glare from the tractor trailer so the brake was not activated.

"Autopilot is getting better all the time, but it is not perfect and still requires the driver to remain alert," Tesla said in the statement. "Nonetheless, when used in conjunction with driver oversight, the data is unequivocal that Autopilot reduces driver workload and results in a statistically significant improvement in safety."

Last Friday, a driver, who claimed his Tesla autopilot feature was on, was involved in a serious accident on the Pennsylvania turnpike. The NHTSA is investigating that accident.

"Based on the information we have now, we have no reason to believe that Autopilot had anything to do with this accident," Tesla said in a statement.

A July 1 crash in Pennsylvania in which the Model X rolled over and the occupants fortunately survived, is another example of blaming others, Consumer Watchdog said. Tesla is not willing to assume responsibility when autopilot fails, the group said.

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