Even the fact it’s called ‘Autopilot’ could seal the system’s fate.
It’s far from easy being Elon Musk right now. Not only has his car company, Tesla, come away from posting a Q2 2019 financial report so bad that it cast doubt over whether the automaker will ever be profitable, but his reputation seems to be eroding more than ever now that he’s been caught making outlandish claims about the future value of his cars.
And now, there’s this, a statement from a consumer watchdog group asking the Federal Trade Commission to investigate Tesla for making misleading claims about the abilities of the company’s Autopilot system. The group, The Center for Auto Safety and Consumer Watchdog, alleges that Tesla’s claims about the ability of its Autopilot system have led to multiple unnecessary deaths and as a result, it wants legal action taken against Tesla.
"Last year we asked the FTC to stop Tesla’s continued deceptive use of the term ‘Autopilot’ before there were more deaths and injuries because of an over-reliance on non-autonomous technology,” said Center for Auto Safety Executive Director Jason Levine. "One year later, there has been more unnecessary, preventable tragedy, and more intentional deception by Tesla, including claims of ‘full self-driving capability.’ If the FTC, and the states, do not stop these unlawful representations, the consequences will squarely fall on their shoulders.”
What the consumer group’s threatening tone is referring to is the fact that Tesla keeps boasting about how its Autopilot system could very soon support full self-driving capabilities, and the advocacy group thinks that Tesla’s stance could mislead consumers into thinking that the system is safer than it really is.
By contributing to the notion that Autopilot is nearly good enough to function without human intervention, the Center for Auto Safety and Consumer Watchdog posits that Tesla is falsely convincing its customers over-rely on the system in dangerous ways. One such example, it claims, led to the most recent Autopilot death, that of a 50-year-old man driving a Model 3 that under-rode the side of a semi-truck.
Whether its pleas are heard or not, and whether the FTC decides to take action against Tesla or not, it should be stressed once more that there is currently no system in any automobile that’s good enough to allow drivers to take their attention off the road or put themselves in a position where they are not in full control of their vehicles. The fact that needs to be said may prove that consumer watchdog groups have a point.