Consumer Reports Calls On Tesla To Disable Hands-Free Autopilot


The aftermath of the Tesla Autopilot crash

Drivers May Be Confused By Tesla’s “Hands-Free” Autopilot Technology

Consumer Reports has come forward to suggest that Tesla temporarily disables the hands-free Autopilot feature. This comes after a few recent minor accidents, and one that was fatal.

Despite The Recent Fatality, The Model S Has Received 5-Star Crash Safety Ratings. All Other Reported Crashes (Autopilot Or Not), Have Left The Passengers With Minimal Injuries.

Despite The Recent Fatality, The Model S Has Received 5-Star Crash Safety Ratings. All Other Reported Crashes (Autopilot Or Not), Have Left The Passengers With Minimal Injuries.

The publication believes that consumers are confused by Tesla’s marketing of the technology, and wording and descriptions provided, which may cause false assumptions. Vice president of consumer policy and mobilization for Consumer Reports, Laura MacCleery explained:

“By marketing their feature as ‘Autopilot,’ Tesla gives consumers a false sense of security. 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. ‘Autopilot’ can’t actually drive the car, yet it allows consumers to have their hands off the steering wheel for minutes at a time. Tesla should disable automatic steering in its cars until it updates the program to verify that the driver’s hands are on the wheel.”

Tesla’s hands-free Autopilot technology, as well as details regarding the accidents are being investigated by both the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB). The NHTSA sent Tesla a letter asking for detailed Autopilot information, design, updates, and logs. Multiple other publications and organizations are also scrutinizing Tesla and its “beta” technology, and the Securities and Exchange Commission is concerned that Tesla may not have informed investors soon enough.

The Autopilot system uses sensors, radar, and multiple cameras to Autosteer and Auto Lane Change, meant to (in Tesla’s words):

“Automatically steer down the highway, change lanes, and adjust speed in response to traffic . . .  (and to) help the car avoid hazards and reduce the driver’s workload.”

These features are for use with the hands off of the steering wheel. Drivers are aware that the car will “drive itself” in certain situations and conditions. Tesla has publicized wording that concerns Consumer Reports and others:

“Your Autopilot has arrived.”

Promises to relieve drivers “of the most tedious and potentially dangerous aspects of road travel.”

Along with the advertising that may cause misunderstandings is wording that makes it very clear that the driver is still responsible and must be aware, engaged, and in control. Added to this, the system is not on unless the driver turns it on, and warnings are displayed in the vehicle upon activating Autopilot. The driver is reminded to place hands on the wheel and remain engaged.

Consumer Reports’ concern lies largely in the fact that the messages are mixed. Drivers may be aware of such information but not react soon enough. While other semi-autonomous technology is being employed by many companies, Tesla’s is the only of its kind that is marketed as “hands-free”. MacCleery concludes that concise descriptions of the features must be provided with no exaggeration or marketing that lends itself to a sense of ultimate safety or a removal of responsibility:

“Consumers should never be guinea pigs for vehicle safety ‘beta’ programs. At the same time, regulators urgently need to step up their oversight of cars with these active safety features. NHTSA should insist on expert, independent third-party testing and certification for these features, and issue mandatory safety standards to ensure that they operate safely.”

Source: Consumer Reports

Categories: Tesla

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55 Comments on "Consumer Reports Calls On Tesla To Disable Hands-Free Autopilot"

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More advertisement for Tesla…..

…more overtime for the tesla legal department because tesla is looking at potentially significant legal liability.

Tesla – Autopilot

Volvo – Intellisafe Autopilot

BMW – Active Driving Assistance

Mercedes-Benz – Driving-Aid System

Infiniti – Intelligent Cruise Control

Audi – Piloted Driving

GM – Super Cruise

Honda – Advanced-Driver Assistance Systems

Nissan – ProPilot

Hyundai – Highway Driving Assist

Thanks to illuminati

What about 5 years jail for reckless drivers and 8 years for the idiots that upload reckless driving. I wonder when consumer reports will ask Tesla to reduce engine power bc a lot of driver aren’t skill enough to handled.

you can’t really hold tesla responsible if people *actively* do stupid things with a tesla car that the individual owns. on the other hand, if an accident happens in connection with the autopilot feature, that is a different matter because tesla software is engaged in the active control of the automobile.

you would have thought that the tesla legal department would have thought that one through, but maybe elon musk overruled them.

I think Tesla software is fully engaged in the movement of the vehicle from the moment someone sits in the driver’s seat and steps on the brake pedal.

I calls on Consumer Reports to disable their computer keyboards and concentrate on educating consumers not to be totally dumb when using cars! ;D
They can save more lives.

Your head line should read:

“Consumer Reports Admits To The Public It Has No Understanding How Autopilot Functions”

As a long time subscriber, it’s quite disconcerting to see CR fall into this kind of ‘bandwagon’ nonsense. I would think they would know better. Tesla’s not the only manufacturer with these systems, so going after them specifically, looks disingenuous.

Not knowing that the system has actually been shown to work much better than other car makers systems(because of Tesla’s ability to gather information on and send improvements to its vehicles), yet speaking as if it doesn’t work properly as a base system.

Finally, their(and a great many others) incorrect interpretation of the term ‘beta’ as it’s referenced to the software suite. Musk attempting to explain to them what he meant when using the word, seems to be falling on deaf ears.

I really hope CR gets their act together on this and gets the correct information, before making themselves look any more foolish.

I too am a disappointed fan of CR for this poorly conceived press release.
Their job is testing and reporting car performance and reliability. Safety is NTSB & NHTSA’s job.

The responsible role of REAL Media, is to report facts– not push personal opinions based on incomplete understanding or evidence, to the public.

CR has no legitimacy publishing “advice” on autonomous software / hardware development, or how they feel it should or should not be implemented– to anyone, especially when they don’t have much of any information to base their position on.

I’m afraid they’re just fabricating revenue-generating click bait, which appears to be pointedly trying to escalate anti-AutoPilot / Tesla sentiment. Maybe someone spent some ‘Koch dollars’ for such an article?

It’s a no-brainer. If Autopilot only endagered those who abuse it then that would be a different situation. But the reality is that one idiot with Autopilot engaged can kill scores of people. I don’t want to die because some jackass decides to take a nap in his Tesla.

How exactly would a car with autopilot engaged kill scores of people?

He does NOT know. But his “gut” tells him what he feels (an organ that contains as many neurons as a household cat’s brain)– and that’s all he knows. And what he knows, must therefore be true. 😛

Hey! My cats are pretty smart!

in the accident that happened in florida, the autopilot continued operating even after the driver was beheaded. the car, operating in autopilot, eventually veered off the road and steered between trees until the car crashed into a pole. there weren’t people standing around at the time but having a car operating on its own with no possibility of human intervention was a hazardous condition.

now, maybe if the car had veered off the road and into a crowd, the autopilot feature would have recognized the crowd, but you don’t want to discover this kind of stuff by using people as guinea pigs.

“no comment” commented:

“…in the accident that happened in florida, the autopilot continued operating…”

Hmmm, well, perhaps the software continued operating, but with the roof sheered off, I suspect the front-facing camera mounted in the rear view mirror was either sheered off or broken. With no video input, we can hardly expect Autopilot to continue “seeing”
where the lane marking are.

Similarly, “no comment”, you might be able to continue to drive if you gouged out your eyes, but it’s unlikely you could do so safely.

BTW — I note that of 28 different people posting comments here, you are one of only 2 who have posted repeated Tesla bashing comments, and your comment count of 7 far exceeds any negative comments by anyone else.

Just what is your agenda for repeated Tesla bashing here, “no comment”? Do we need to add your screen name to the short list of those permanent Tesla short-selling FUDsters who bash Tesla on a daily basis to promote their negative stock position?

the tesla autopilot feature also uses a map and ultrasonic sensors. it appears that the car continued to use the ultrasonic sensors as it drove between rows of trees. the safety issues are: what are the conditions that shut down the autopilot feature? and how is it shut down? those are questions that i am putting out there: i can’t say that i am particularly interested in your no-tesla-owning fanboy opinions for answers.

And what about the hundreds of thousands persons who have been dead or seriously injured because a lot of ass-holes drivers love to drive their car far more than the speed limits causing a big proportion of accidents, not to speak about drunk or junky people.
When CR will demand to every car maker to limit the speed of their cars to no more than 85 mph?
We have to share the road with so many irresponsible people who uses their car as a toy when it is weapon in fact, so why to disable a system that have be implemented to help drivers and save lives.
Sure, driving with AP without respecting the conditions required for it is a irresponsible behaviour that could ultimately be at the origins of some accidents, but should we prohibit seat belt because some times it doesn’t work well and let persons to die in car crashes with fire?

The idiot who doesn’t have ‘auto pilot’ is far more likely to kill scores of people than the one with it. At least that’s what current numbers regarding accidents attest to.

Proof: The Terrorist driving the Renault Truck into 100’s of people– did NOT have AutoPilot.

While it is still too early, you are right.

It looks the Tesla worshippers are having a bad day. I wonder what they would saying if it was Mercedes or Volvo semi-autonomous systems were under the spotlight. Would they be still be championing autonomous systems or would they be trying to discredit the non-Tesla manufacturers?

Car and Driver already rated the Tesla system FAR BETTER then the competition.

And what if Car and Driver came out with an article that was critical of Tesla Autopilot? Would the Tesla worshippers be objective about the article or would they say the Car and Driver authors a bunch of idiots. Are the Tesla worshippers capable of being objective or is every article that praises Tesla good and every article that is skeptical of Tesla bad?

And what if you had monkeys flying out of your backside?

The facts are that they didn’t.

So I take that as a yes, every article that praises Tesla is good and every article that is skeptical of Tesla is bad.

Texas FFE said:

“Are the Tesla worshippers capable of being objective…”

I’d say that anyone who is comfortable using the term “Tesla worshipper”, especially on a public forum, is the one who’s clearly lacking in objectivity.

To Texas Ford Fan for Electrics, I have Said, basically, that Tesla is not currently selling cars that most people can just get in and instantly understand all the differences, between a Tesla and cars they were use to. Does this mean that Tesla should dumb down their cars, or they should educate their buyers better? I propose, that since Tesla Vehicles are more like an Aircraft, with a variety of new systems that need to be learned, that they should, in the least, have an owners and buyer class, with at least 4 hours class time, and 1-4 hours road time in the S and X, with written, and oral exams, as well as the driver demonstrating they know safe and unsafe behavior in these cars, and commit to operation of Tesla Vehicles in a safe and responsible manner! It should also be recorded in video, and both filed, and they receive a copy, for home review at any time they want. For Tesla’s copy, it is proof that the driver has comprehensive training, understanding, and accepted responsability! (If they try and claim they didn’t know, at some later date, or say, the Autopilot did this, or that!) Personally,… Read more »

With personal aircraft you are required to have different licenses based on the kind of driving you do (VFR, IFR, etc.) then you are are required to get checked out on the piticular aircraft you fly. Modern cars may be getting so complicated that we will need an vehicle specific operators certificate before we can engage the autonomous features.

What’s next, having to file a flight plan (drive plan) before you could use Autopilot? I guess a truly autonomous vehicle could file its own drive plan.

Consumer Reports Just lost credibility with me. Not like they had much to begin with.

The car can be driven by a responsible person many many many miles without an accident.

The car be driven by a Darwin award winner Idiot and crash in not many miles.

But let’s blame the car and technology. right?

This was first a thread yesterday on the GM-Volt site, then the main article there today. In that article, it was pointed out that Sen John Thune is calling for congressional hearings. A quick google of Sen Thune’s voting records shows that the agenda is very much NOT about the safety and very much about the politics of electric vehicles We all remember the fiasco over the congressional hearings over the Volt battery fire. As you create and spread your opinion on Tesla’s AP, you should remember that all a lot of people ‘remembered’ about Volts was that they were exploding everywhere. I don’t know whether to get angry or laugh at the audacity and arrogance of Consumer Reports telling Tesla that it has a huge gripe with the name ‘autopilot’. I had a marine ‘autopilot’ (and YES, that is the NAME it is sold under) in my cruiser 15 years ago that controlled ONE THING- STEERING. It could not slow me down, even if it had any way of detecting hazards- which might include shoals, other vessels, fishing buoys, navigation aids, etc. I still had to be in charge. If I crashed into another boat, it would be… Read more »

Who cares about consumer reports? There are trivial because it is only one death. There are thousands of deaths from other cars, where is consumer report here with the other thousands?

I’m starting to question CR’s motivation,.. Their reviews of Tesla vehicles have lately been ridiculously negative.

So am I Carcus, so am I.??

All hybrids in general except for the Prius.

::Pssst. Follow the money…::

There is one thing for certain:

“Consumers should never be guinea pigs for vehicle safety ‘beta’ programs. At the same time, regulators urgently need to step up their oversight of cars with these active safety features. NHTSA should insist on expert, independent third-party testing and certification for these features, and issue mandatory safety standards to ensure that they operate safely.”

Exactly. Tesla might have the best, but not the only, autopilot technology out there. Regulators appear to be far behind on this, but they are catching up quickly, the hard way.

Consumer Reports calling out NHTSA for its inertia, its lack of action on this issue, would be appropriate. IMNSHO, highly appropriate. I remember my astonishment when first reading that Tesla had enabled AutoSteer (Beta) to be “released into the wild”; to allow individual and entirely untrained drivers to decide if they wanted to be used to gather data for Tesla’s autonomous system; to be used in the same way that Google uses trained drivers in its semi-autonomus cars; semi-autonomous cars which, from public accounts, appear to be more capable than Tesla’s cars. My astonishment should have been echoed by the NHTSA, and at a minimum they should immediately have called upon Tesla to provide data as it was being collected. Perhaps the NHTSA should have called upon Tesla to put a moratorium on public use of Autopilot/AutoSteer (Beta) until independent tests could be made of its safety, or lack thereof. But Consumer Reports calling out Tesla, when they don’t have sufficient data to form an informed opinion regarding the level of safety of the system, is highly inappropriate. The fact that the NHTSA waited until Tesla Motors notified them of a fatal traffic accident which occurred in a car under… Read more »
So, Consumer Reports now thinks it’s in a better position than Tesla Motors to judge whether or not drivers are safer using Autopilot/AutoSteer, or not using it. Fascinating. And just what data, one wonders, did they have access to, that led them to be sufficiently confident of their opinion to use their publication as a megaphone to tell this to Tesla Motors? Personally, I think this is a matter for the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), and CR should mind their own business until the public has a lot more data upon which to base an opinion. At the moment, CR’s opinion is just as uninformed as anyone posting a comment here on InsideEVs. CR should be ashamed to be publicly issuing uninformed opinions as if they’re some sort of authority on the subject of autonomous driving. * * * * On the other hand… Tesla Motors should issue a PR detailing how the NHTSA has defined different levels of driving autonomy in cars, and it should make clear that in its current level of development, AutoSteer is only Level 2, and should not be used as a Level 3 system. Far too many online reports and videos make… Read more »
Lots of folks here seem to think it’s just simple logic. If Tesla says the system must be monitored at all times, it’s simply the driver’s fault if he fails to do so. This is an incredibly unsophisticated POV. Human beings aren’t that logical and rational. It is far from clear that people aren’t simply failing to follow the instructions because they are merely people. I’ve been of the opinion since day one that autonomy features in cars are worse than useless if they must be monitored. I fail to see how monitoring traffic AND what the autopilot is doing, ready to take control at a moments notice, is supposed to be more relaxing than normal driving. In my perhaps not so humble opinion it’s pretty obvious that if one actually did what Tesla says we have to it would be LESS relaxing since there’s even more to monitor. But then nobody would use it, other than to see what it’s capable of! What I find most suspect in the entire tale is that Tesla still hasn’t published any detailed data to allow third parties to analyze them and judge what they actually mean. Instead, Elon Musk has made statements… Read more »

Terawatt said:

“Elon Musk has made statements that require us to think he had a first grader’s understanding of statistics to take seriously, such as the average number of miles driven between accidents for autopilot on the one hand versus ALL other driving on the other!”

You’re certainly correct to point out this is a significant oversimplification, and ignores a lot of factors… and that Elon almost certainly knows better. That’s spin, not Truth.

But when you refer to “a first grader’s understanding of statistics” then you vastly overestimate the average person’s understanding of statistics. For example, I have seen it argued, vehemently and by multiple people, presumably all adults, that an opt-in survey on the Tesla Motors Club forum qualifies as a scientifically valid random survey.

at this point, when you use the autopilot feature, you do have to always be at the ready to take control of the vehicle at any instant. no, that would not be “relaxing”. that is why deployment of the autopilot feature must be regulated, because what you really need are professional drivers.

could you imagine general motors deploying a new feature this irresponsibly. there is no way that the gm legal department would even allow such to be done given the potential for huge legal liability that unregulated deployment would present.

but the good news for the tesla legal counsel is that they are probably running up some very impressive billable hour totals in preparing tesla for possible lawsuits.

Two quick points:
This seems beyond the scope of Consumer Reports. I agree, but not sure this is consistent – do they call out other manufacturers?

I suggest that they limit this by speed. 25 mph maybe. Then as it matures as a technology, increase.

Again why do you fault the system and not the idiot.

Some basics:
1) – Idiots Exist
2) – Tesla Sells Advanced Vehicles
3) – Most people have only basic driver training
4) – Even Some Idiots can afford a Tesla
5) – The Population that is in the Markets where Tesla’s are sold exceed 1 Billion
6) – If only 0.001% of the Tesla Accessable Population that have Bought a Tesla, were idiots, that number would be more than one.
7) – The number of idiotic Tesla Videos suggest a far higher % of idiots than this, closer to at least 0.1%, or 100x what point 6 suggests
7) – Tesla does sell cars to idiots, because to not sell them would require an ‘Idiot Test, which I have not yet heard of!

So, until we can stop the sale if Tesla’s to idiots, these issues will continue!

Other options might exist, but the best we could hope for, is Tesla offer training to buyers of all their cars, or at least to buyers ordering advanced performance features, like Ludicrous, Autopilot, Summons, etc, so everyone, including the idiots get better training!

you point 1) is why the deployment of beta test features has to be regulated; and why tesla can’t be allowed to deploy the feature to anyone who is willing to give tesla a few thousand dollars. the reason being is that not only is the (potentially idiot) driver at risk, but the general public, which did not ask for the risk, is put at risk as well.


First of all Autopilot is not a replacement for driver. Every now and then, Autopilot prompts the driver to take control. If the driver sleeps then its his mistake.

By the way, its none of the business of Consumer Reports to say what Tesla has to do.

When the gas guzzlers and the diesel vehicles release some much pollution that kills 1,000 of Americans, did the Consumer Reports tell the automakers to stop selling it.

Autopilot is still a convenient feature which gives some rest to the driver. But he/she cannot sleep.

consumer reports is in the business of making recommendations in the interest of consumers. so this *is* their business. therefore, the call to tesla is, as stated, based on CR’s view of what is in the interests of consumers.

as I understand this entire issue there has been one fatality linked to the autopilot. If that idiot was looking at the road ,as he was instructed, he most likely would still be dead without the autopilot engaged. You are not supposed to be looking at other things when driving. If this man was watching a DVD playing he should have crashed just like he did. My God, GM cars get in lot of accidents daily and we do not hear about any of those. This addition is fun and in no way dangerous. I drive on highway 5 in California several times a month and I look forward to that drive because of autopilot.
To all you people with negative posts please wake up.


i’m confused, in another article about an accident involving the alleged use of the autopilot feature:

the reported statement from tesla is that the autopilot feature disengaged before the accident occurred because the driver’s hands were not detected on the steering wheel. how does this square with tesla advertising the autopilot feature as being a “hands free” feature as reported in this article?

To understand (apparently) what, autopilot is, and what it does, and how to use it, you should take a few $, Get yourself to a airport that offers advanced flight training king in autopilot equipped aircraft, go fly, engage the autopilot, let it do its thing to a few minutes, and then, take the controlls, crank in a bank/turn, forcefully, and then let go and watch what happens!

That advanced, $500,009 dollar (and higher), will barely tell you it disengaged, except the indicator light under ‘AP’ will be off!

Even fully engaged, with a fully operational Flight Director (another expensive piece of certified hardware), Autopilot in Aircraft will not avoid a mid-air collision, or a collision with terrain!

People imagine that the ‘Jetsons’ have arrived, in the form if a autopilot equipped Tesla! Wrong! Then they try and tell Tesla, that it’s because they call the feature ‘Autopilot’, not because people have insufficient education to think, read, and follow the uses for which it is approved for!

This really is a tough call. There are arguments against what Tesla has done and how it rolled the feature(s) out, but what hurts Tesla’s defense is that it is impossible to know how many lives Autopilot has SAVED when operated correctly.

The same problem exists in taking any preventative measures, of course, like in building a dam or strengthening a levee, for example. Yes, there may be upfront costs — even a fatality or two, due to freakish/outlying circumstances — but in the long run, such projects may save dozens or hundreds of lives. It’s just impossible to ever know.