With two government agencies looking into the automaker, Tesla may be forced to do this anyways.
Revolutions never come easy, and as the first automaker to charge headfirst into the realm of widely available semi-autonomous vehicles, Tesla is now under intense scrutiny from the public and government regulators following the first fatal crash at the hands of its Autopilot system. Now Consumer Reports, a publication that has had a love and hate relationship with the electric automaker, has called for Tesla to change the way it goes about self-driving cars.
They want autopilot technology to be less “misleading”, give owners more clear instructions as to what the system can and cannot do, revoke Autosteer capabilities from all Teslas until it can be reprogramed to require drivers to have hands on the wheel, and stop using the public as a test bed for its technologies. Tesla CEO Elon Musk fired back via Twitter saying that the term “Beta” is used to outline that the technologies are still in a testing phase. The consumer watchdog claims that the Autopilot name for Tesla’s self-driving function is misleading and can cause customers to forget that the system is still in testing. Additionally, Consumer Reports believes the automaker should remove technologies that are being tested.
It cites that Tesla’s marketing of the system is contradicting, telling customers that they are responsible for driving but encouraging them to relinquish responsibility and relax as the system does the work. Musk added that Tesla would comply with none of Consumer Report’s requests and continue doing its business as usual. In a follow up email to Consumer Reports, Tesla said, “We will continue to develop, validate, and release those enhancements as the technology grows. 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.” Consumer Reports elaborated on its request to force drivers to keep their hands on the wheel.
It mentioned that its three Tesla test vehicles underwent autonomous driving intervals as long as three minutes before checking to see if the driver’s hands were on the wheel. It expanded by citing studies that show how bad humans are at regaining control over autonomous tasks. Tesla has always been a company that takes risks, so it had to expect a media and regulatory dark period such as the one it’s seeing now. Regardless of the media firestorm, Tesla is currently under investigation by the NHTSA over the fatal Florida crash that claimed the life of ex Navy SEAL Joshua Brown. The Securities and Exchange Commission is also looking into Tesla for failing to report the accident, which would potentially influence stock prices, to its investors.