Tesla Motors, Inc.: Consumer Watchdog Wants Autopilot Feature Disabled

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Consumer Watchdog sends a letter to Tesla CEO Elon Musk, saying that the Autopilot should be disabled as it is not safe for the roads

Apart from battle with major publications, Tesla Motors Inc. (NASDAQ:TSLA) has found itself in a greater problem as regulators have started taking on the young electric vehicle (EV) maker following its first fatal Autopilot crash. A consumer watchdog group has demanded that the company disable the autonomous driving feature in its vehicles, as it is not ready for the general public.

In a letter to Tesla CEO Elon MuskConsumer Affairs reported the public entity said that Tesla’s response to the May 7 fatality in Florida was “woefully inadequate.” The company inexplicably delayed in informing about the accident, which was only done after the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) announced a preliminary investigation on June 30.

The watchdog believes that the automaker should switch off the autonomous driving system until the NTHSA approves it is safe enough for drivers. Mr. Musk explained that the white truck was not detected against the bright sky, which implies that it is “not ready to be deployed on public roads,” according to Consumer Watchdog President Jamie Court.

Mr. Court believes that the car manufacturer rushed to get its premature self-driving technology to the highway, and that it usually blames the owners in an incident instead of accepting its responsibility. Just a day after the Fatality announcement, a Model X crashed and rolled over on the Pennsylvania Turnpike. The driver claimed that he was driving the vehicle on the Autopilot mode, but Pennsylvania State Police didn’t find anything wrong with the autonomous feature and charged the driver, something the watchdog did not highlight.

Instead, the organization bashed Tesla for responding that Autopilot had was not activate at the time of the crash. It also highlighted a Tesla Model S on Autopilot “rear-ended a parked truck” on Interstate-66, Virginia, and the company said the accident took place due to an error by the driver, who should have intervened and slowed down the vehicle.

The letter also stated that Mercedes-Benz and Volvo take responsibility if their autonomous driving system is the cause of an accident and recommended Tesla to do the same. “If autopilot can ultimately be shown to meet safety standards and is then redeployed, you must pledge to be liable if anything goes wrong when the self-driving system is engaged," Mr. Court said.

While the Consumer Watchdog is rightfully playing its part for consumer interests, it is completely ignoring the fact the Autopilot’s user manual clearly states that the driver should keep their hands on the steering wheel at all times to intervene. Additionally, whenever the vehicle senses no hands on the steering, it continuously gives audible and visual alerts. Tesla executives repeatedly urge owners to be ready to take over while using the Autopilot and owners are aware of the system’s limitations.

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