Clark’s take on Tesla’s controversial Autopilot feature

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Clark’s take on Tesla’s controversial Autopilot feature
Image Credit: Kate Moore
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Consumer Reports is calling on Tesla to disable its automatic steering feature after a driver was killed in a Tesla Model S while Autopilot was activated.

You’ve probably heard Clark talk on the radio over the past year about his experience using the partial self-driving technology. In certain conditions, Autopilot allows his car to automatically steer, change lanes and adjust speed.

Read more: Tesla driver killed in crash while using autopilot

Consumer Reports: Tesla should disable Autopilot feature

In the Florida crash that killed Navy veteran Joshua Brown in May, a semi-truck was turning and crossed a divided highway when the Model S crashed into it. Neither the Autopilot system nor the driver saw the truck.

As federal investigators begin to take a closer look at Tesla following that accident, Consumer Reports magazine has recommended these four changes:

  • Disable Autosteer until it can be reprogrammed to require drivers to keep their hands on the steering wheel.
  • Stop referring to the system as “Autopilot” as it is misleading and potentially dangerous.
  • Issue clearer guidance to owners on how the system should be used and its limitations.
  • Test all safety-critical systems fully before public deployment; no more beta releases.

In his personal experience, Clark admits that it’s easy to become lackadaisical when using the Autopilot feature because it works so well.

Before enabling Autopilot, Tesla says drivers must acknowledge that it’s in a “public beta” phase:

When drivers activate Autopilot, the acknowledgment box explains, among other things, that Autopilot “is an assist feature that requires you to keep your hands on the steering wheel at all times,’ and that ‘you need to maintain control and responsibility for your vehicle” while using it.

However, Consumer Reports says your hands can be removed from the steering wheel for several minutes before the car gives off any kind of warning.

“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.’

In an email response to Consumer Reports, Tesla stands by the sophisticated technology in its cars and the safety record of this controversial Autopilot feature:

 “Tesla is constantly introducing enhancements, proven over millions of miles of internal testing, to ensure that drivers supported by Autopilot remain safer than those operating without assistance. We will continue to develop, validate, and release those enhancements as the technology grows. While we appreciate well-meaning advice from any individual or group, we make our decisions on the basis of real-world data, not speculation by media.’

Clark is among those willing to take his chances. He says this technology is helping Tesla learn how to make vehicles safer, and it will only improve over time.

 “I’m happy to be a guinea pig. Somebody’s gotta do it,” Clark said.

Read more: Video shows Tesla self-driving feature prevents crash

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Michael Timmermann paid off his mortgage in two years. Now, he shares his money-saving tips on his blog, MichaelSaves.com.
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