Despite its name, Tesla often reminds customers to keep their hands on the wheel when using the company’s Autopilot function in its vehicles. But this isn’t enough for the German government, which has asked the company to stop using the term in its ads.
Reuters reports that a spokeswoman for Germany’s Federal Motor Transport Authority (KBA) confirmed a letter had been sent to Tesla, “with the request to no longer use the misleading term Autopilot for the driver assistance system of the car.”
This year has brought plenty of controversy for Tesla’s feature. In May, a Florida man was killed when the system failed to spot a truck as it crossed lanes. The glare of the sun meant the car's cameras couldn’t see the trailer and the brakes weren’t applied. The fact that Tesla and Elon Musk sold $2 billion worth of Tesla shares just 11 days after the accident didn’t help the company’s defense.
The safety of Autopilot was brought into question again last month when reports of another fatal crash surfaced. The incident apparently took place in China sometime in January - months before the Florida accident. There was also the news that Mobileye - the Israeli startup that supplied the image-recognition hardware used in Tesla’s Autopilot technology – had ended the partnership because the automobile maker is “pushing the envelope in terms of safety,” though Tesla disputed this claim.
Responding to the KBA letter, a Tesla spokeswoman noted that the term had been used in the aerospace industry for decades when referring to the system that works in conjunction with pilots. “Just as in an airplane, when used properly, Autopilot reduces driver workload and provides an added layer of safety when compared to purely manual driving,” she said.
The KBA wrote to owners of Tesla vehicles last week, stating that the Autopilot could not be operated without their constant attention. When the system first launched last year, several YouTube videos appeared showing users traveling on roads with their hands off the wheel. One person sat in the back seat as the driverless car hit 51 mph.
Elon Musk will be unveiling a new Tesla product this week. He was originally going to reveal it today but the announcement has been moved to Wednesday. It’s possible that he will address the Germany situation during the event.
Moving the Tesla announcement to Wednesday. Needs a few more days of refinement.— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) October 16, 2016