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Tesla Motors Inc (TSLA) Should Disable Autopilot: Consumer Reports

Tesla Motors Inc (NASDAQ:TSLA) Autopilot

The hype that surrounds Tesla Motors is starting to wear off and many people are starting to put some enthusiasm aside to take a second look at the firm and its cars.  Experts at Consumer Reports are one of the most vocal fans of Tesla and they seem to have a soft spot for its Model S. CR practically “promotes” the Model S and it says the car is the best car it ever tested.

Tesla Motors Inc (NASDAQ:TSLA) Autopilot
Source: Tesla Motors Inc

However, a series of crashes (one of them fatal) and Musk’s angst to criticism is has forced CR to rethink its stance about the firm and its cars. The NHTSA and NTSB have also launched a probe into crashes involving the firm’s Autopilot system.  In a blog post released on Thursday, (July 14) experts at CR called on Tesla to disable its Autopilot until it can guarantee safety of drivers, passengers, and other road users.

Musk and Tesla are guilty of exaggeration

When Tesla Motors introduced its Autopilot system, it hinted that the software will give its cars self-driving powers. Even though Musk noted that the software was not yet at the point where you could enter the car,  go to sleep and wake up at your destination; he  pitted Autopilot as a direct rival to Google’s fully autonomous self-driving cars.

Part of the sales pitch from the firm says “your Autopilot has arrived” and it will relieve you “of the most tedious and potentially dangerous aspects of road travel.” Tesla noted that drivers needed to keep their hands on the wheels but it wasn’t long before we saw YouTube videos of drivers pulling crazy stunts behind the wheels while trusting the system to drive their cars. CR noted that the marketing pitch creates confusion because Tesla was saying “your vehicle can drive itself, but you may need to take over the controls at a moment’s notice.”

Laura MacCleery, vice president of consumer policy for Consumer Reports also takes issue with the name “Autopilot. In her words, “by marketing their feature as ‘Autopilot,’ Tesla gives consumers a false sense of security…  ‘Autopilot’ can’t actually drive the car, yet it allows consumers to have their hands off the steering wheel for minutes at a time.”

Other automakers such as Infiniti, Mercedes-Benz, and Volvo have driver-assist system on almost as good (on on par) as Tesla’s Autopilot; but they describe such systems as driver-assist systems. In a bid to shade Elon Musk, Laura adds that “companies must commit immediately to name automated features with descriptive—not exaggerated”.

Tesla should disable Autopilot for now

Last week, Germany’s  KBA revealed that it won’t allow the use of autopilot in German roads. The KBA noted that Autopilot is still a beta-phase tech and that the fact that it has blind spots makes it unfit for German roads. Interesting, Consumer Reports seems to share the same sentiment.  Consumer Reports maintained that “Consumers should never be guinea pigs for vehicle safety ‘beta’ programs.”

Consumer Reports also called on Tesla Motors to take some actions to mitigate further crashes in its cars. The experts want the firm to disable Autopilot until it can be update to force drivers to keep their hands on the wheels. The Consumer Reports noted that “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.”

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Victor Alagbe is a seasoned business and finance writer with a specialty in writing about how to invest for the long-term in healthcare, pharmacology, energy and tech stocks. His long-term focus is on stocks that provide a nice mix of growth and income. For the short term, he passionately writes about trading stock options for the excitement and leverage that stock options offer.