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Tesla Motors (TSLA)’s Problem Child: Autopilot Finds Trouble Again

Tesla Model 3 (TSLA)

Tesla Motors Inc is facing some serious challenges with Autopilot and it appears that things may only get worse from here. Autopilot is once again in the news for the wrong reasons as German regulators demands that Tesla pulls all its Autopilot ads. In all fairness, Tesla’s Autopilot tech is the best-in class driver assist system on the market right now. In fact, Tesla’s success with autopilot has forced automakers to follow their lead and increase R&D spending on driverless technologies.

If you follow Tesla, you’ll remember that its self-driving tech started attracting much scrutiny after a fatal crash in May. Since then, there have been numerous calls to improve the system, rename the system, and some have gone as far as calling for an outright ban. It seems that Germany is leading the charge against Tesla Autopilot.

Tesla Motors Inc (NASDAQ:TSLA) Autopilot

Germany bans ‘Autopilot’ in ads

About three weeks ago, news broke that Germany’s Federal Highway Research Institute (BASt) thinks that Tesla Autopilot might be a “considerable traffic hazard.” The BASt made the assertion following its investigation into a crash in which a Model S on Autopilot crashed into a bus. The driver of the Model S has maintained that Autopilot didn’t cause the crash noting that the system was “functioning properly and… was unrelated to the accident.”

However, Germany’s transport regulator KBA doesn’t seem to agree with Tesla Motors Inc . The KBA has sided with BASt and it has asked that Elon Musk stop marketing his driver-assist system as Autopilot in the country.  The KBA notes that, “in order to prevent misunderstandings and false expectations from clients, we are asking that the misleading term ‘Autopilot’ no longer be used in advertisements for the system.”

However, we can argue that Musk wasn’t planning to mislead the public with the “Autopilot” branding. In fact, the firm often goes out of its ways to remind drivers of the need to stay alert even when they have engaged Autopilot. In a statement, the firm says “we are clear with our customers that Autopilot is a driver’s assistance system that requires the driver to pay attention at all times.”

The case for Tesla’s Autopilot

Many critics have opined that Tesla Motors Inc is using “Autopilot” as a misleading marketing ploy imply that its cars have self-driving skills. The critics opine that the fact that human driver must take over from the computer suggests that the tech is not worthy of its “Autopilot” name.  Elon Musk in his defense claims that the flying system in aircraft is called “Autopilot” yet it doesn’t absolve pilots from the job of flying their aircraft.

Despite what the German thinks of self-driving cars that don’t roar like their German machines and Autopilot that wants to stop Germans from their love for driving; statistics show that Autopilot is about 38 percent safer than human drivers. The first known fatal crash with Autopilot was recorded at 130 million miles whereas there’s a fatal crash in the U.S. after every 94 million miles.

Musk says,  “if anyone bothered to do the math (obviously you did not) they would realize that of the over 1M auto deaths per year worldwide, approximately half a million people would have been saved if the Tesla Autopilot was universally available.”

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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.