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Safety advocates call for Tesla to change 'Autopilot' name

by Justin King
Safety advocates call for Tesla to change 'Autopilot' name

Two groups claim the branding is \"deceptive and misleading.\"

Safety advocates have stepped up pressure on Tesla to change its Autopilot branding.

Following a few fatal accidents that occurred while Autopilot was engaged and drivers were presumably not paying attention to the road, the Center for Auto Safety and Consumer Watchdog have repeated their claim that the term Autopilot is "deceptive and misleading."

The groups have sent a letter to the Federal Trade Commission demanding intervention on the issue, arguing that Tesla is the only company that labels SAE Level 2-rated features as 'self-driving' because 'autopilot' connotes full autonomy.

"Tesla has repeatedly exaggerated the autonomous capabilities of its Autopilot technology, boosting sales at the expense of consumer safety," says CAS executive director Jason Levine. "The FTC must step in and expose this charade before more Americans are injured or killed."

Tesla obviously borrowed the term from the aircraft industry, where modern autopilot technology can steer and manage throttle through all phases of flight except for takeoff. The most complex autopilot systems allow pilots to be 'hands-off' but are different from the technology that flies an unmanned aircraft.

Tesl has repeatedly clarified that its cars are not fully self-driving and drivers must keep their hands on the wheel and pay attention to the road while Autopilot is engaged.

The automaker claims that cars with Autopilot are statistically involved in fewer deadly accidents than other vehicles on the road today. CEO Elon Musk says the problem is not with branding or a lack of proper warnings, but rather an issue with drivers who become complacent.

"When there is a serious accident, almost always, in fact maybe always, the case is that it is an experienced user, and the issue is more one of complacency," he said during a recent conference call. "It's thinking they know more about Autopilot than they do."