Tesla Aims to Prove Autopilot is Not Misleading

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Tesla took a giant leap into the future when it released Autopilot. This semi-autonomous drive mode found on the Model X and Model S seemed like a great idea, but it has had problems. Several accidents and even one death due to incorrect usage of the technology have some claiming that Autopilot is a misleading name. Tesla recently conducted a survey to prove otherwise.

The name implies the car drives itself, which is correct, but Tesla stipulates that the driver must continue to pay attention and keep his hands on the wheel. This isn’t a fully-autonomous feature that is designed to drive while the human driver reads a book, watches a video, or takes a nap.

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Despite Tesla’s directions, some people haven’t been keeping their hands on the wheel and giving the road their full attention. The question now is whether it’s because people understand what to do but ignore the directions or if the Autopilot name is confusing.

Germany’s Federal Motor Authority was so concerned with the Autopilot that they sent a letter to Tesla asking them to stop using the name. This was only a request, not a requirement, so Tesla disagreed saying customers know how the feature works and are in some cases ignoring proper operating procedures rather than being confused by the Autopilot name.

Rather than argue about it, Tesla decided to conduct a survey of its German customers to see if they understand how Autopilot works. It was a short survey with only seven questions and was conducted through online interviews. It overwhelming proved Tesla owners understand exactly how Autopilot works. Tesla released a brief statement on the results saying,

In response to Germany’s Kraftfahrt-Bundesamt (KBA)’s suggestion that using the name “Autopilot” is misleading, we worked with a third-party to survey Tesla owners in Germany to better understand how they perceive Autopilot.
98% of customers surveyed said they understand that when using Autopilot, the driver is expected to maintain control of the vehicle at all times.

That survey may support keeping the name, but German officials aren’t the only ones who have a problem with Autopilot. California is working on legislation that could require changing the name, and even Consumer Reports said a name change is a good idea. For now, Autopilot stays and Tesla continues to defend its technology.

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Nicole Wakelin

Nicole Wakelin