Tesla’s use of the term ‘autopilot’ is said to be misleading – leading some to think that their car can drive itself when this is not the case.
A court in Munich has ruled that Tesla has exaggerated promises about its so-called ‘self-driving’ technology, with the car maker’s use of the term ‘Autopilot’ coming under strong scrutiny.
As The New York Times states: “Tesla’s use of the brand name Autopilot for its software, as well as claims the company made on its German website about the software’s function, create the false impression that the car can drive itself, a Bavarian state court ruled. In fact, the court said, Autopilot is a driver-assistance system that requires human intervention.”
Matthew Avery, research director at Thatcham Research comments:
“We have long warned of the pitfalls to the Autopilot system. Its seemingly competent performance can encourage drivers to hand too much control to the vehicle and lose sight of their responsibilities behind the wheel.
“Autopilot is not a self-driving system. It is there to provide driver assistance, not become an invisible chauffeur.
“How many times have movies depicted an airline captain disengaging completely when switching on autopilot – leaning back in their chair, reaching for a cup of coffee or even leaving the cockpit entirely?”
Tesla Marketing re Autopilot
Tesla marketing frequently suggests the car is capable of ‘full self-driving’. Just recently some UK customers received an email communication stating:
“Our records indicate that you haven’t upgraded your Model S… to Full Self-Driving Capability. You can upgrade now at a reduced price of £2,200.”
Misleading Autopilot claims lead to accidents
Clearly the outcome of driver over-reliance on the Autopilot system can be catastrophic.
Reports of accidents with Autopilot engaged have become all too familiar. Many are fatal and it’s not known if drivers were “taking a chance” or worse still, literally believing their Autopilot system was fully capable of driving the car itself.
When marketed and used sensibly, systems like this will ultimately benefit road safety. However, without a safety-first standard, our roads will become more dangerous.
Fortunately Berkshire-based Thatcham Research is a champion for the safe adoption of new vehicle technologies. In recent years its views on the dangers of overselling the so-called ‘self-driving’ capability of current driver assistance systems have been covered widely so it’s good to know these sort of misleading marketing terms are being identified, tested and challenged.
About Thatcham Research
Thatcham Research was established by the motor insurance industry in 1969, with the specific aim of containing or reducing the cost of motor insurance claims while maintaining safety standards.
They are the UK’s only ‘not for profit’ insurer funded research centre providing vehicle manufacturers, regulators, law enforcement organisations, automotive bodies and insurers with a holistic view of the benefits or shortcomings of vehicle technologies to do with vehicle safety, security and repairs.