Consumer Reports today called on Tesla to temporarily suspend its autopilot feature in all of its cars following the May death of an Ohio man who had the feature engaged at the time of his crash. Telsa CEO Elon Musk's response? Thanks, but no thanks.
"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,” a Tesla spokesperson wrote to Consumer Reports.
The May death appears to have occurred when a tractor trailer turned across the highway in front of the oncoming Tesla. Neither the engaged autopilot mode, nor the driver, were able to stop in time. The vehicle crashed, and the driver died.
Consumer Report's critique is broader than what happened in just this one incident, however. The magazine finds fault with how Telsa marketed its beta autopilot feature, suggesting the language encourages unsafe behavior in drivers.
"In the long run, advanced active safety technologies in vehicles could make our roads safer," observed vice president of consumer policy and mobilization for Consumer Reports Laura MacCleery. "But today, we're deeply concerned that consumers are being sold a pile of promises about unproven technology. 'Autopilot' can't actually drive the car, yet it allows consumers to have their hands off the steering wheel for minutes at a time."
The magazine is asking the car company to do the following:
- "Disable Autosteer until it can be reprogrammed to require drivers to keep their hands on the steering wheel"
- "Stop referring to the system as 'Autopilot' as it is misleading and potentially dangerous"
- "Issue clearer guidance to owners on how the system should be used and its limitations"
- "Test all safety-critical systems fully before public deployment; no more beta releases
Telsa is unlikely to do any of the above, and said it believes drivers using the autopilot feature are safer than those who do not. “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," a spokesperson for the car company responded to Consumer Reports. "We will continue to develop, validate, and release those enhancements as the technology grows."
And Tesla may have a point — just so long as its drivers aren't using autopilot as an excuse to literally be asleep at the wheel.
2016 Traffic Fatality Count— Bob Gunderson (@Bob_Gunderson) July 14, 2016
Autopilot Mode: 1
Pilot Mode 23,996