The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) recently released a report that found that Tesla was giving names to their automated-driving system that were intentionally misleading consumers. More specifically, the names seem to be designed to make it seem as though the autopilot system is more capable than it actually is.
According to the report, more than half the respondents surveyed believe that it’s safe to use Tesla autopilot with their hands off of the steering wheel. The name “autopilot” is what the IIHS believes is confusing Tesla drivers.
Naturally, Tesla claims that their detailed instructions make it clear that the autopilot system should only be engaged when your hands are on the wheel.
“Tesla’s user manual says clearly that the Autopilot’s steering function is a ‘hands-on feature,’ but that message clearly hasn’t reached everybody,” IIHS President David Harkey said in a statement. “Manufacturers should consider what message the names of their systems send to people.”
Consumer Reports has been concerned about the Tesla autopilot system for years. In fact, three years ago they asked Tesla to change the name of the system in the wake of an autopilot-related fatality in Florida.
Harkey spoke more about this issue with the Insurance Journal in a recent phone interview. “Automakers need to take care when they name a system of not implying that the driver can be out of the loop — that these are driver-assistance systems, not driver-replacement systems,” said Harkey.
While Tesla-owner Elon Musk may have aspirations of offering a true autopilot system someday, the reality is those capabilities just aren’t available for Tesla drivers just yet. For now, you should follow the golden rule of driving no matter what mode your vehicle is in: keep both hands on the wheel and your eyes on the road.