It's about time the NHTSA issued a cease and desist letter to the company selling 'Autopilot Buddy.'
***UPDATE: Autopilot Buddy returns. It's now marketed as a "cell phone holder." See screen grab directly below. Link to website here. Hat tip to Brian Ro!
The website now states: The #1776™ cell phone holder is "not an Autopilot Buddy®" See our FAQ for more information. Wonder where they got that idea?
Sadly, some people have gone to great lengths to "trick" Tesla Autopilot from nagging them to put their hands back on the wheel. We've heard about all sorts of homemade fabrications that will reportedly make the system think a driver is "engaged." There have even been reports of people hanging something from the steering wheel and then going to sleep or heading for the rear or passenger seat.
Let's just say right now that this is a terrible idea. With all the recent press about the system's quirks and Tesla's continual assertion that the problems are always caused by drivers failing to use the technology correctly, or more specifically, not keeping their hands on the wheel, this is a recipe for disaster. According to the automaker, Autopilot is a "hands-on" system. Tesla has gone to great lengths to make this explicitly clear.
Not only will there be dire consequences if people continue to try to circumvent the system, it will also put a complex monkey wrench into these investigations. If a driver gets into an accident and Tesla (along with the investigating agency) learns that the driver's hands were on the wheel, the tables turn. However, what if it wasn't actually the driver's hands, but instead, some homemade "fooling" device or Autopilot Buddy?
This is another reason that Tesla may want to more seriously consider an active driver monitoring system with in-car cameras and/or a capacitive touch sensor, not only to save lives but also to save its posterior, but that's another story.
As of the time of this writing, Autopilot Buddy is still available for purchase on the internet. The product description says it's not a "hands-free" device and that it's for Track Use Only, but its purpose is clear. Autopilot Buddy is billed as a "Tesla Autopilot Nag Reduction Device."
If you have purchased this product, please do not use it. Additionally, spread the word to your connections in the Tesla community.
We received the following email from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration:
CONSUMER ADVISORY: NHTSA Deems ‘Autopilot Buddy’ Product Unsafe
Federal Regulators Issue a Cease and Desist Order
WASHINGTON, D.C. – The U.S. Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration issued a cease and desist letter to the company selling a product called the Autopilot Buddy. Marketed as a ‘Tesla autopilot nag reduction device,’ its primary function is to disable a safety feature in Tesla vehicles that monitors the driver’s hands on the steering wheel and warns the driver when hands are not detected. Aftermarket devices, such as Autopilot Buddy, are motor vehicle equipment regulated by NHTSA.
“A product intended to circumvent motor vehicle safety and driver attentiveness is unacceptable,” said NHTSA Deputy Administrator Heidi King. “By preventing the safety system from warning the driver to return hands to the wheel, this product disables an important safeguard, and could put customers and other road users at risk.”
The letter directs the company to respond by June 29, 2018, and to certify to NHTSA that all U.S marketing, sales, and distribution of the Autopilot Buddy has ended.
The public is encouraged to report suspected safety issues affecting vehicles or vehicle equipment to NHTSA’s vehicle hotline at (888) 327-4236 or online at www.NHTSA.gov.
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