Consumer Advocacy Groups Call for Investigation into Tesla Autopilot Feature

When consumers hear the word “autopilot,” many assume that this feature refers to a vehicle that operates completely on its own, without the need for human input. However, when it comes to the autopilot feature in Tesla vehicles, this assumption has proven to be misleading and, in some cases, deadly. As of late July 2019, advocacy groups such as Consumer Watchdog and the Center for Auto Safety are requesting that the Federal Trade Commission and the Department of Motor Vehicles launch an investigation into how Tesla is marketing this autopilot feature. These groups claim that the company is deliberately misleading consumers about the feature’s capabilities, which has led to accidents, injuries, and deaths. Let’s take a closer look at what exactly these advocacy groups hope to accomplish.

A Confusing Term

Consumers remain confused about what the term “autopilot” actually means. According to a recent study by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), 48 percent of survey participants stated that they thought it was safe to remove their hands from the steering while the autopilot function was in use. However, this is not true. The autopilot feature in Tesla models still requires the driver to be alert, engaged, and in control of the vehicle, even if certain systems or functions are automated in some way. Consumer advocacy groups are concerned that by using the term “autopilot” to describe a feature that still requires a driver to remain alert and active behind the wheel, Tesla is negligently putting people in dangerous situations.

What Advocacy Groups Want

This is not the first time that consumer advocacy groups have led a campaign for an investigation to be launched into Tesla’s questionable use of the autopilot term. According to Jason Levine, who serves as the Executive Director of the Center for Auto Safety, the group asked the FTC to intervene and prevent Tesla from using the confusing autopilot term one year ago. However, no action was taken.

“One year later, there has been more unnecessary, preventable tragedy, and more intentional deception by Tesla, including claims of ‘full self-driving capability,'” remarked Levine. “If the FTC, and the states, do not stop these unlawful representations, the consequences will squarely fall on their shoulders.”

These groups are calling for the FTC, the DMV, and the Attorney General to launch formal investigations into Tesla’s marketing strategies for the autopilot feature. They hope that Tesla will be forced to come clean to consumers about the limitations of these features and make it clear to consumers how to operate their vehicles safely.

What Comes Next

As we wait to see how these requests are handled, it’s important for Tesla drivers to recognize that they are still very much expected to be in control of their vehicles at all times. Even if features like autopilot give the impression that the car operates on its own and is essentially a self-driving vehicle, this is not the case. Keep your hands on the wheel where they belong in order to avoid senseless tragedies.

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