A pair of consumer-advocacy groups called on the state Department of Motor Vehicles Wednesday to investigate what they called deceptive marketing by Tesla about its Autopilot feature.
The call by Consumer Watchdog and the Center for Auto Safety came one day after a Tesla being driven on Autopilot crashed into a parked police SUV in Laguna Beach, causing minor injuries to the Tesla driver. No officers were in the SUV at the time.
The groups contend Tesla’s marketing of the Autopilot feature — including the name itself — makes it seem as though the cars are “autonomous,” although the vehicles don’t meet the state definition of an autonomous vehicle.
“Tesla has repeatedly exaggerated the driverless capabilities of its Autopilot technology, putting profits ahead of its own customers’ safety,” said Jason Levine, executive director of the Center for Auto Safety. “The California DMV must step in and stop this dangerous practice before more Americans are injured or killed.”
Tesla vehicles being driven in Autopilot mode have been involved in at least two fatal crashes, including one in Northern California earlier this year and another in 2016 in Florida. A Tesla in Autopilot mode crashed earlier this month in Utah.
“These are preventable deaths,” Jaime Court of Consumer Watchdog said. “And the gauge should not be whether robot cars kill less people than human drivers do. The gauge should be we shouldn’t give robot cars licenses until we know they can drive. And this Autopilot don’t drive. It don’t have a license. It isn’t even named appropriately.”
Tesla has repeatedly stressed that the Autopilot feature is not designed to prevent all accidents, and drivers using the feature must remain vigilant and use it only on highways with clearly marked lanes. After Tuesday’s crash in Laguna Beach, Tesla issued a statement saying that when motorists use Autopilot, “drivers are continuously reminded to keep their hands on the wheel and maintain control of the vehicle at all times.”
The company has insisted that the Autopilot feature does dramatically increase safety on the road, when used properly. Following the fatal crash in March, the company stated that while Autopilot does not prevent all accidents, “it makes them much less likely to occur. It unequivocally makes the world safer for the vehicle occupants, pedestrians and cyclists.”
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