Even though Tesla’s Autopilot feature is statistically safer than human driving, Consumer Reports wants Tesla to disable the feature until… it is safer. Wait, what?
Yes, there was a recent accident, and yes, it was fatal. Was it the fault of Autopilot, though? No. The numbers don’t lie. It was the first known fatality in just over 130 million miles where Autopilot was activated; among all vehicles in the US, there is a fatality every 94 million miles. Worldwide, there is a fatality approximately every 60 million miles. Contrasted against worldwide accident data, “customers using Autopilot are statistically safer than those not using it at all,” says Tesla.
Consumer Reports does not seem to care, though.
“By marketing their feature as ‘Autopilot,’ Tesla gives consumers a false sense of security,” says Laura MacCleery, vice president of consumer policy and mobilization for Consumer Reports. “In the long run, advanced active safety technologies in vehicles could make our roads safer. 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. Tesla should disable automatic steering in its cars until it updates the program to verify that the driver’s hands are on the wheel.”
Consumer Reports calls for Tesla 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.
“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.”
Oh, and let’s not forget that the Model S performed better in Consumer Report tests than any other car ever has.