Tesla Motors has been in the news lately for vulnerabilities in its mobile app, more injuries with Autopilot and the marketing of Autopilot.
Mobile researchers were able to hack into the Tesla remote app. Promon found that lack of security in the Tesla smartphone app, cyber criminals could take control of the company’s vehicles, to the point where they can track and locate the car in real-time, and unlock and drive the car away unhindered. Such a hack gives criminals total control of the vehicle. They were able to to take full control of a Tesla vehicle, including locating and tracking the car, opening the doors and enabling its keyless driving functionality.
There will be a update to the Tesla Autopilot 8.1 features soon with an over-the-air update in about two weeks.
Enhanced Autopilot adds matching speed to traffic conditions, keeping within a lane, automatically changing lanes without requiring driver input, transition from one freeway to another, exiting the freeway,self-parking when near a parking spot and be summoning in/out of garage.
Meanwhile, consumer groups are concerned about the misleading and confusing capabilities of Autopilot.
A growing list of Tesla crashes demonstrates the urgent need to regulate the vehicles’ “Autopilot” feature, Consumer Watchdog said 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.
“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.”
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.
“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.
Consumer Watchdog also petitioned the California Department of Motor Vehicles to immediately start a formal rulemaking to expedite a proposed regulation banning misleading advertising that leaves the dangerous – and sometimes fatal – impression that a car is more capable of driving itself than is actually the case.
The nonpartisan nonprofit public interest group referred the DMV to its new video documenting how Tesla hyped its vehicles’ “Autopilot” feature, clearly leaving the false impression the cars were self-driving.
In a letter to DMV Director Jean Shiomoto Consumer Watchdog’s Privacy Project Director John M. Simpson wrote:
“Tesla, with its promotion of its so-called ‘Autopilot’ feature, is a prime example of the deadly consequences of such unjustified hype. Chairman Elon Musk has repeatedly extolled the Tesla’s self-driving virtues to clearly leave the impression that the vehicle is autonomous.”
“Two drivers who were misled by Tesla’s Autopilot hype, one in China and one in Florida, are dead after fatal crashes,” the letter continued. “Tesla’s response now, in direct contradiction to Musk’s ‘Look Mom, No Hands’ hype, has been that the drivers should have been paying attention and should have had their hands on the steering wheel.”
DMV proposed new draft autonomous vehicle regulations in September that would protect consumers with a section that provides that “a vehicle cannot be advertised as autonomous in California unless it meets the definition of ‘autonomous’ specified in Vehicle Code §38750 and the autonomous vehicle regulations.”
The key safety provision was only a small part of a larger autonomous vehicle regulation package, Consumer Watchdog noted, and because of the complexity of the entire package, the necessary formal rulemaking to implement it will likely be time consuming. The package of regulations probably will not take effect for at least a year.
“That is too long to wait to stop Tesla and its CEO from risking even more lives by falsely promoting Autopilot technology as self-driving. Currently there is nothing to stop the sort of hype spouted by Elon Musk with its potentially deadly consequences,” Consumer Watchdog’s letter said. “DMV should extract the advertising regulatory language from the rest of the draft autonomous vehicle regulations and start a formal rulemaking to enact that section immediately.”
“Much of the new autonomous vehicle draft regulation pertains to future developments in the technology. For the most part, the rules would not impact any vehicle now on public highways. The regulations are complex and it makes sense to take the time necessary to get them right,” Consumer Watchdog’s letter concluded. “The situation is different with the advertising provision. The language is clear and straightforward. Car manufacturers, like Tesla, are hyping their vehicles now. People are getting killed. The DMV must move as quickly as possible to enact this life-saving provision and stop such abuses.”