Consumer Reports says Tesla should drop Autopilot name

Posted at 1:29 PM, Jul 15, 2016
and last updated 2016-07-15 16:32:54-04

DETROIT - Consumer Reports magazine is calling on electric carmaker Tesla Motors to change the name of its Autopilot semi-autonomous driving system and to disconnect the automatic steering feature after a fatal crash in Florida.

The magazine says in a statement that calling the system Autopilot promotes a dangerous assumption that Teslas can drive themselves. It also says the automatic steering should be disconnected until it's updated to make sure a driver's hands stay on the steering wheel at all times.

The magazine's calls come after 40-year-old Joshua Brown died in a May crash in Florida with the Autopilot on. The system didn't detect a tractor-trailer that had turned in front of Brown in bright sunshine, and Brown didn't react.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and National Transportation Safety Board are continuing to investigate multiple crashes, including the incident involving Brown, a former San Diego-based sailor.

La Jolla resident Jay Wulkowicz, who got on the waitlist for a Tesla Model 3 a few months ago, said he still wants his car.

"I drive into downtown La Jolla every day, stop and go down La Jolla Parkway," he said. "That's the part I'm looking forward to the most."

Consumer Reports believes Tesla is sending mixed messages -- the car can drive itself, but you need to be ready to take over driving at any given moment.

Wulkowicz said the owner's manual makes it very clear that safety is the driver's responsibility.

"Tesla pretty specifically lays out when you should use it and not use it, and whenever you're using it you're supposed to keep your hands on the wheel and still stay vigilant and pay attention," he said.

Tesla maintains the cars have safely driven more than 130 million miles on autopilot.

Consumer Reports believes Autopilot could eventually make the roads safer, but for now, they call the technology "unproven."

Associated Press left messages Thursday seeking comment from Tesla spokespeople in California.