Consumer Watchdog Calls For “Recall” Of Tesla Autopilot Feature

4 months ago by Eric Loveday 28

Tesla software update 8.0 - Autopilot Enhancements

Tesla software update 8.0 – Autopilot Enhancements

Consumer Watchdog, a “nationally-recognized, California-based, non-profit consumer education and advocacy organization” is calling for a U.S. “recall” of Tesla’s Autopilot due to a “growing list of crashes” that the Watchdog groups believes to be linked to Autopilot, which is deemed unsafe by the consumer advocacy organization.

Tesla's new self driving hardware/360 degree vision

Tesla’s new self driving hardware /360 degree vision

Consumer Watchdog states:

“Earlier this week a Tesla smashed into a construction barrier truck on the German autobahn while traveling at a high rate of speed and likely with Autopilot engaged. Although the car smashed under the truck, the driver was seriously injured, but not killed.”

“But in early November a Tesla crashed into a tree in Indianapolis and burst into flames killing its two occupants. Investigators are probing whether Autopilot was a factor, but the company says the car was too badly damaged to transmit data to its servers and that it could not be determined if Autopilot was engaged.”

Note that in both cases, no determination has been made as to whether or not Autopilot was engaged at the time of the crash. However, that hasn’t stopped the advocacy group from calling for termination of Autopilot.

Tesla Autopilot

Tesla Autopilot

John M. Simpson, Consumer Watchdog Privacy Project Director, asked:

“How many more lives must be lost and crashes happen before Tesla Chairman Elon Musk will take responsibility and act to protect our safety?”

The question should probably be how many lives has/will Autopilot save?

Clearly, Consumer Watchdog has a grudge against Tesla/Autopilot (or maybe against all forms of autonomous drive), but there’s no concrete evidence to support the idea that Autopilot is less safe than humans controlling all of the driving. In fact, the opposite is true, according to Tesla CEO Elon Musk.

Simpson added:

“Tesla should stop using drivers as human guinea pigs and disable autopilot. Musk needs to stop irresponsibly hyping what the feature can do.  It’s not self-driving and drivers must be completely engaged with their hands on the wheel.”

Autpilot guidelines from Tesla do clearly state that the driver must pay attention at all times and interaction with the steering wheel is indeed a requirement, so we’re not sure what’s got Simpson so enraged.

You can read the full release from Consumer Watchdog in the PR below. It contains multiple links to videos, letters and regulations.

New Tesla Crashes Shows Need to Recall Tesla’s Autopilot Feature, Consumer Watchdog Says; Musk Resisted German Authorities’ Renaming of “Autopilot” Prior to High-Speed Crash

SANTA MONICA, Calif., Dec. 1, 2016 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ — A growing list of Tesla crashes demonstrates the urgent need to regulate the vehicles’ “Autopilot” feature, Consumer Watchdog said today, reiterating its call to the California DMV to act and for the company to disable the feature.

Earlier this week a Tesla smashed into a construction barrier truck on the German autobahn while traveling at a high rate of speed and likely with Autopilot engaged. Although the car smashed under the truck, the driver was seriously injured, but not killed.

But in early November a Tesla crashed into a tree in Indianapolis and burst into flames killing its two occupants. Investigators are probing whether Autopilot was a factor, but the company says the car was too badly damaged to transmit data to its servers and that it could not be determined if Autopilot was engaged.

The German Department of Transportation has banned use of the term “Autopilot” in Germany, but Tesla is reported to be resisting.

“How many more lives must be lost and crashes happen before Tesla Chairman Elon Musk will take responsibility and act to protect our safety?” asked John M. Simpson, Consumer Watchdog Privacy Project Director.

The crash on the German autobahn was similar to a fatal crash in China in January when the Tesla smashed into a slow-moving truck. In May a Tesla driver using Autopilot was killed when his car smashed under a truck turning in front of him. View a video of the Chinese crash, taken from the doomed vehicle here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-wzqGwUr47s

“The problem is that Tesla encourages people to believe Autopilot can do more than it really can,” said Simpson. “The name itself is a huge problem.”

Consumer Watchdog produced a video showing how Tesla and Musk have irresponsibly hyped their vehicles’ capabilities, which has received significant attention online. View Consumer Watchdog’s video here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gDv9TEXtHzw

Meanwhile, the California DMV has proposed autonomous vehicle regulations that would prevent auto manufacturers from using terms like “autopilot” and “self-driving” when the vehicles are not truly autonomous. The proposed California regulations are part of larger regulatory package and probably won’t take effect for at least a year.

On Tuesday Consumer Watchdog called on the DMV to break-out the advertising regulation from the larger package and immediately start a formal rulemaking to enact it. View Consumer Watchdog’s letter to DMV Director Jean Shiomoto here: http://www.consumerwatchdog.org/resources/ltrdmv112316.pdf

“Tesla should stop using drivers as human guinea pigs and disable autopilot. Musk needs to stop irresponsibly hyping what the feature can do.  It’s not self-driving and drivers must be completely engaged with their hands on the wheel,” said Simpson.

View the California DMV’s new draft autonomous vehicle regulations here: https://www.dmv.ca.gov/portal/wcm/connect/211897ae-c58a-4f28-a2b7-03cbe213e51d/avexpressterms_93016.pdf?MOD=AJPERES

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28 responses to "Consumer Watchdog Calls For “Recall” Of Tesla Autopilot Feature"

  1. pjwood1 says:

    More sad attempts at narrative control. The Indy crash was the urban incident, at high speeds which Tesla confirmed AP does not support. Teslas know the speed limit, almost infallably. I’ve never seen it out of sync with even a passing sign change. The cars also know not to allow AP beyond >5-10mph, than the posted limit, a lot lower than the “high speed” that was corroborated by witnesses and any sober look at the damage caused that car.

    OT, but good Matt T. essay on how even mainstream media is beginning to let its guard down, on crap like this.
    http://www.rollingstone.com/politics/features/washington-post-blacklist-story-is-shameful-disgusting-w452543

    1. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ sven says:

      Interesting article. Thanks for the link.

    2. jimijonjack says:

      Tesla Encourages People to Follow the “WRITTEN INSTRUCTIONS”..People Get too Cocky & too Lazy.. Musk Can’t Be Responsible for other people’s actions and the way other people Drive Only because they bought a car from him ! What A Doe Doe Head ! That is just a plain Silly , F00LISH, & Brainless suggestion !

  2. Get Real says:

    What is so stupid about this is that Consumer Watchdog got it start by taking on the insurance industry’s excessive profits and now they are attacking Tesla Auto AP which will lead to much lower insurance rates once Levels 4 and 5 are accomplished!

    While I agree that the Washington Post’s article was lazy reporting.

    Their is a lot of evidence of what is certainly deliberate state sanctioned Russian hacking and influencing of the election either in favor of Trump or against Clinton which was openly encouraged by the Trumpster.

    Such as the wikileaks release of only material damaging Clinton and the massive fake news originating out of places like Macedonia and placed in FakeBook for instance.

    In any case, we have certainly entered an era of massive and well funded dis-information campaigns mainly by the right wing and corporate interests being openly waged to influence Americans as seen here:

    https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2016-11-22/elon-musk-vs-the-trolls

    These campaigns will adversely effect clean tech and EVs and likely erode American competitiveness in the world economy.

    1. PJ says:

      I know this isn’t a political website or article I just wanted to say that part of me is glad Russia is playing with our politics. It’s about time America got a taste of its own medicine. Also just because a foreign entity released info to damage a candidate doesn’t mean we should ignore it if it is true.

      1. Timmy says:

        Yes, naive Americans are shocked, — *shocked!* — that meddling in elections is going on here.

  3. Waiting says:

    Too technical for me. I don’t want the darn autopilot on my M3 in the first place. Why pay for something I don’t want? The car would definitely cost less without all that AP hardware.

    I like driving my car. Why let AP do it for me? If I get tired, I’ll pull over and take a break.

    I just don’t see AP as something that we just HAVE to have!!!

    1. floydboy says:

      You don’t, leave it off.

      1. Joshua Burstyn says:

        Exactly. Besides, it’s not universally true of anyone, anyways. Imagine a nice day where you’re rested versus a day when you’ve spent three hours on an exhausting, high-stress conference call before leaving. Sometimes you’re going to want someone to drive for you, and sometimes you’re not. Why worry about whether the software and hardware are there or not; no one is holding a gun to your head forcing you to use it. Even if you don’t want to pay for it – leave the option disabled when you buy the car. Geez.

    2. Samwise says:

      I think your somewhat missing exactly what AP offers you.
      Sure it could drive the whole car for you.

      However even when it’s not doing that it’s offering a whole lot of information and assistance even someone who loves driving should appreciate and use.

      Everybody should be happy to know where all other vehicles are when changing lanes, likewise knowing when cars further up the queue have started braking. Even the emergency braking.

      No matter how much of a driving god someone thinks they are, the human reaction time is orders of magnitude slower than what a computer is likely to achieve and when two objects travelling at high speed are on a collision cause every microsecond counts!

    3. Nix says:

      You won’t have the Autopilot functionality unless you purchase it.

      Every car comes with autopilot hardware because every car will collect anonymous data about the roads they travel, in order to improve autopilot. Similar to how Google can show real-time traffic delays on Google maps based on anonymous cell phone data, even while people don’t have Google Maps up and running.

    4. Pushmi-Pullyu says:

      By the same argument, if you don’t want seat belts in your car, the auto maker shouldn’t include them.

      I’m old enough to remember a time when auto makers were not required to put seat belts in their cars, and as a result, there were very few car models where they were even available as an option. Thank goodness the governments stepped in (at first State governments; later the Federal government) and mandated seat belts, and then later air bags! Just think of all the lives which have been saved as a result.

      And just think of all the lives that Tesla Autopilot, and similar technologies from other auto makers, will save now and in the future.

      Perhaps even yours, Waiting. Even if you never use anything like Tesla AutoSteer, your life could still be saved if other cars on the road use it to avoid a collision with your car.

    5. Tim says:

      Because the rest of us benefit from the data your AP hardware will be collecting, whether you use it or not.

    6. Anti-Lord Kelvin says:

      For resale value for example. Some years from now, you might want to resale your Model 3, so not having AP hardware in a world where almost every Tesla will have it and where other car makers will make autonomous car, your car would be like a horse carriage whose owner wanted to sale at the time where almost every body was wanting to buy a Ford Model T. Lol

  4. Jimmyz says:

    The point people forget is the other 99.999 percent of the people who are on the road never agreed to be crash test dummies for autopilots “beta” testing…

    1. floydboy says:

      I thought it was 99.999999 percent. Uh, since Autopilot isn’t crashing into people(driver’s are) then I guess it’s okay?

      1. Joshua Burstyn says:

        Let the paid trolling begin. Floyd, dunno if it’s worth getting into it with these guys.

    2. Nix says:

      oh jeez. A userid created specifically to point back to this one story. Somebody ban this troll.

    3. Tim says:

      Well I don’t agree to cars that don’t have collision detection, or that have cruise control, or navigation, a radio, or whatever else is in your car that I personally think puts me at risk. Everything is about me and about what I want.

  5. floydboy says:

    First off, do these people even know that Autopilot is a ‘set’ of features? Do they ABSOLUTELY know which, if any, of the features were engaged? Have they even ascertained the basic root cause of the accidents?!

    Running around the habitat screaming and flinging crap don’t cut it with me! Either be accurate, or begone!

    1. Joshua Burstyn says:

      Facts dont matter in a smear campaign.

      1. Pushmi-Pullyu says:

        Precisely. While some negative comments about Tesla AutoPilot are just honest expressions of the very human fear of new technologies, others are not at all honest opinions.

        You can be sure some of the new identities created to post on this issue, right here on InsideEVs, are part of a deliberate smear campaign by the serial Tesla FUDster crowd.

  6. Pushmi-Pullyu says:

    Well, according to the Wikipedia article, at least “Consumer Watchdog” isn’t one of those right-wing propaganda organizations hiding under a benign name.

    But it does seem that Consumer Watchdog has fallen into the fallacy of the double standard for semi-autonomous technology.

    Quoting from “Tesla’s Autopilot and the double standard for automotive safety systems”:

    Yet here we are with what amounts to more advanced versions of cruise control — which some companies have branded “autopilot” or “autonomous” to appeal to our ever-increasing “technophilia” — and we hold it up to a far higher standard than these preceding technologies. Broken down into constituent parts, these systems could be called things like “blind-spot warning system” and “rear-end collision avoidance” and they would likely be embraced eagerly. But when brought together under such terms as “artificial intelligence” or “self-driving,” people seem to immediately gain a sense of unease about the whole affair.

    The fact of the matter is that our vehicles are creeping up a trajectory of better safety through technology that we’ve always been on. Rolling out new solutions will always have unfortunate growing pains that sadly result in the loss of human life, but the stark reality is that they always have. Our inherent anxiousness or even fear of cars taking away our control of the vehicle is unfounded, because, in many ways, we’ve already let them.

    Full article:
    https://techcrunch.com/2016/11/24/teslas-autopilot-and-the-double-standard-for-automotive-safety-systems/

    1. floydboy says:

      Good article, thanks Pushmi.

  7. Timmy says:

    Are we supposed to be notified by email if and when someone replies to one of our comments? Because I don’t, which makes this comment system pretty sad.

    1. Nix says:

      Nope, no emails when you get a response. No edits of posts. No checking post history. etc…

      Don’t think of it as a discussion forum, it is more of a news blog that just happens to allow comments.

      Sorry.

      1. Jay Cole says:

        /sad face

  8. Alan says:

    I was recently involved in a collision while using AutoPilot, traveling at 70mph on a 3 lane highway, one hand on the wheel. Tesla suddenly swerved into to middle lane, and I course corrected, but not before colliding with the car in the middle lane.

    Tesla told me the car performed as expected. My experience says differently.

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