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Consumer Reports Calls For Tesla To Disable Autopilot (consumerreports.org) 330

Reader parallel_prankster writes: Consumer Reports is calling on Tesla to disable its "Autopilot" feature that enables hands-free operation. Citing the recent fatal accident involving a car with Autopilot engaged, Consumer Reports labels the feature as "Too Much Autonomy Too Soon." In an extensive article posted at the top of its website Thursday morning, Consumer Reports said Tesla should "disable hands-free operation until its system can be made safer." "By marketing their feature as 'Autopilot,' Tesla gives consumers a false sense of security," said Laura MacCleery, vice president of consumer policy and mobilization for Consumer Reports, in the article. "In the long run, advanced active safety technologies in vehicles could make our roads safer. But today, we're deeply concerned that consumers are being sold a pile of promises about unproven technology. '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."

Tesla says it will continue development of Autopilot, insisting that drivers supported by Autopilot "remain safer than those operating without assistance."

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Consumer Reports Calls For Tesla To Disable Autopilot

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  • by butchersong ( 1222796 ) on Thursday July 14, 2016 @03:22PM (#52512091)
    I suppose Consumer Reports would be just as happy based on their rationale if Tesla were to rename it to "Intelligent Cruise" or something like that.
    • by Actually, I do RTFA ( 1058596 ) on Thursday July 14, 2016 @03:26PM (#52512121)

      Names matter. Expectations matter. Pragmatically and legally.

      I mean, "what a reasonable person would expect" is a common standard, for things like "was this shooting in self defense".

      • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday July 14, 2016 @03:36PM (#52512223)

        So do you expect "Automatic Pilot" on Airplanes to mean land/take off, deal with adverse weather, etc ?

        Why do drivers of cars take automatic pilot to mean complete robotic control, "I can not pay attention"?

        A car still requires a humans to intervention. No where have I seen automatic pilot to be advanced to complete automatic control/driving.

        Only lawyers and the those in the general populace that are trying to elevate auto pilot as responsible, seem to not have the clue. And for lawyers
        they have the clue, but they ignore it and exploit the notion that auto pilot means you as the human can rely 100% on the computer.

        Lets rename the mode. Even though for 50 years Auto pilot meant do the easy, mundane things. Not complete autonomous control.

        • Autopilots CAN land, take off and deal with adverse weather...up to a point.
          But yeah, anyone idiotic enough to think that something called "autopilot" will deal with every situation is pretty stupid. Though we are talking about humans here, and overall they do tend to be kind of stupid.

        • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

          by Anonymous Coward

          Do you expect an "Automatic Transmission" to operate your transmission for you? Do you expect "Automatic Sprinklers" to water your yard for you? Automatic means what it means and comes with certain connotations. If you want to use the aircraft argument, will you agree then that Tesla should require a several hundred hour certification course before you're allowed to take ownership of your vehicle like is done with commercial aircraft to explain all the nuances of the systems and ensure the pilots know ho

          • If you want to use the aircraft argument, will you agree then that Tesla should require a several hundred hour certification course before you're allowed to take ownership of your vehicle like is done with commercial aircraft to explain all the nuances of the systems and ensure the pilots know how everything works?

            You're comparing the sale of an item to a government licensing program. Anyone can buy a plane, whether they can drive it or not; cars are (and should be) the same. Now, if you wanted to make the same comparison between getting a drivers license and getting a pilots license, that would be reasonable. And yes, I'm sure most of us here do think it should be much more difficult to get a drivers license; perhaps at least as difficult as getting one's pilots license, something which is required whether or not th

          • Horseshit. I don't expect an AUTOmobile to be mobile for me. Any person knows that an Autopilot in an aircraft doesn't mean there is no pilot. An autopilot in a car doesn't mean the car doesn't need a driver. Tesla tell you NOT TO TAKE YOUR HANDS OFF THE CAR, and they tell you that the Autopilot feature is in beta. The driver that got killed, while sad, was being irresponsible with a piece of technology and not following directions. A chainsaw's instruction manual tells you not to operate without safety gog
        • by tsqr ( 808554 ) on Thursday July 14, 2016 @04:03PM (#52512479)

          So do you expect "Automatic Pilot" on Airplanes to mean land/take off, deal with adverse weather, etc ?

          I have no expectations at all regarding the meaning of "Automatic Pilot" on airplanes, because I don't operate airplanes. Why would you expect the average person to know what an aircraft autopilot does or does not do?

          • Have you ever been in an airplane with out a pilot? Why would you expect to get into a car without a driver?
            • by tsqr ( 808554 )

              I must confess, I do not understand what these questions have to do with the post to which you replied, but I will do my best to satisfy your curiosity.

              Have you ever been in an airplane with out a pilot?

              Yes, most recently on a tour of Air Force One at the Reagan library; however, I have never flown in an airplane without a pilot.

              Why would you expect to get into a car without a driver?

              Maybe to look for something that had been dropped between the seat and the console? I would not expect to travel in a car without a driver, and I believe that will be true for many years to come.

      • by sjames ( 1099 )

        While some may misunderstand, a pilot is expected to remain at the controls when the autopilot is engaged.

    • Needs a better buzz name - "IntelliCruze"
  • by HBI ( 604924 ) on Thursday July 14, 2016 @03:23PM (#52512103) Journal

    Ignoring litigation exposure is a really bad idea. I doubt Tesla is adequately capitalized to handle the flood of lawsuits that every little incident involving "Autopilot" is going to result in. Consumer Reports is right in this case...they should disable it, settle the claims and be happy it isn't worse.

    • Re: (Score:2, Redundant)

      How about the lawsuits when they remove a feature many people, the vast majority of whom have enough common sense to use it correctly, paid for?

    • by eepok ( 545733 )
      Agreed.

      Eventually, there is going to be a MASSIVE legal battle that everyone building autonomous vehicles will have to face. Are the manufacturers at fault for collisions that their autonomous vehicles cause or fail to avoid? Because even if their autonomous drive mode prevents 2/3 of would-be collisions in those vehicles, the other 1/3 of those collisions will technically be the result of software shortcomings and thus be the fault of the manufacturer.

      With >30,000 traffic deaths per year in the
      • by tazan ( 652775 )
        Yes, If my kid is riding his bike and gets run over by one of these things, I won't care in the least that 2 other kids lives were saved, or even 100. I'll be getting the pitchforks and torches.
    • How about we fix the legal system to prevent stupid lawsuits? Its not a "hands free" system, so why should we give any merit to the deaths of people to stupid to follow simple instructions and run themselves off of the road? I honestly feel this autopilot is doing the world a great service by culling the gene pool.
      • by HBI ( 604924 )

        Fixing the legal system is a great goal, but if you make product liability suits a lot harder to do, you run the risk of having manufacturers simply not care about safety. Doing it in a way that arrives at both goals - manufacturer responsibility and merited, judicious suits - would be a great trick and worthy of a lot of thanks.

        I don't think it's possible, though.

  • by gfxguy ( 98788 ) on Thursday July 14, 2016 @03:28PM (#52512141)
    Airbags and seat belts kill, too - but they save way more lives than they take, so they are standard mandatory equipment. I certainly think we need more time to evaluate, but I'd be willing to bet that autopilot has avoided accidents that dumb asses would have otherwise caused.
    • by HBI ( 604924 )

      Threat mitigation is not going to turn a single lawsuit around, because in all of those - surprise - something bad will have happened.

    • That's data Tesla should have, since they get driving statistics from their cars. They should be able to easily calculate the accident rate for their cars under similar driving conditions with and without Autopilot on.
      • That's data Tesla should have, since they get driving statistics from their cars. They should be able to easily calculate the accident rate for their cars under similar driving conditions with and without Autopilot on.

        see: http://www.roadandtrack.com/ca... [roadandtrack.com]

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      Apples and oranges. Airbags and seat belts are designed to be of use during an already underway accident. Autopilot caused the accident.

      • by wagnerrp ( 1305589 ) on Thursday July 14, 2016 @04:03PM (#52512471)
        No. Autopilot was active during an accident. The truck caused the accident by turning left in front of oncoming traffic. The car had the right of way, and the truck was supposed to wait for the car to clear before continuing. Autopilot failed to prevent the accident, in the same way automatic emergency braking systems offered by other brands may similarly fail to detect an unexpected obstacle and stop.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by eepok ( 545733 )
      Unfortunately, what didn't happen doesn't matter in law.

      Let's say you're driving drunk one day. You hit a car and kill all 4 occupants. You will be thrown in jail and sued in civil court. And you will lose. No court has ever said, "Well, he was such a good driver before. He even actively prevented some collisions with a wise use of horn and blinkers!" Nope. You're still at fault for the collision you cause.

      And this is going to be the MASSIVE legal battle that anyone building autonomous vehicles will
    • I certainly think we need more time to evaluate, but I'd be willing to bet that autopilot has avoided accidents that dumb asses would have otherwise caused.

      I on the other hand am quite dubious. Even if we had sufficient data we don't really know the comparable accident rates for the same driving sans autopilot. Plus there's the question of what happens to driver behaviour after 5 years of driving with an autopilot, nor how the software and its inputs sensors react as the cars get older and start to break down.

      The time to evaluate was before releasing it to the general public. This tech is far too new to be considered safe at this point.

      • by gfxguy ( 98788 )
        Points taken, but I don't think autopilot was operating outside of it's current design. If people need examples of how NOT to use it, then this case is it.
  • by Pubstar ( 2525396 ) on Thursday July 14, 2016 @03:31PM (#52512163)
    Everything I've read about the auto pilot feature states that you need to have your hands on the wheel at all times. There is even a fucking nag prompt for you to hold the steering wheel.
    • Everything I've read about the auto pilot feature states that you need to have your hands on the wheel at all times.

      Everything but the name itself. Autopilot implies automatic piloting, i.e., little to no human intervention.

      • by mspohr ( 589790 ) on Thursday July 14, 2016 @03:44PM (#52512295)

        Autopilot in an airplane maintains direction and speed. Tesla autopilot does the same.
        Autopilot in airplane doesn't swerve to avoid crashes. But Tesla does swerve/brake in some situations.
        Autopilot in airplane requires the real pilot to pay attention and be ready to take over at any time. Tesla pops up a notice every time you turn it on which says "KEEP YOUR HANDS ON THE WHEEL AND BE READY TO TAKE OVER AT ANY TIME".
        The name is perfect.
        Unfortunately, we still have some of the same stupid people who can't read and don't follow directions.

        • by Kjella ( 173770 )

          Except when you hear Musk talk, it hardly sounds like the Autopilot will change name between now and becoming self-driving. He talks as if this is their automatic driver but since it's still in beta wait just a little bit longer to take your hands off the wheel. When in fact it's much closer to the adaptive cruise control/lane keeping etc. that other cars have had than to Google's car project. Sure the legal disclaimers are all there but very often they disclaim anything and everything just to be on the saf

      • by F.Ultra ( 1673484 ) on Thursday July 14, 2016 @03:54PM (#52512387)
        It could have been named "two sticks up your ass" and the three accidents that have happened so far would probably still have happened. The problem is not in the name.
      • Seriously? With a username like "speedplane" you don't know anything about pre-Tesla autopilots, their capabilities, and their limitations? Autopilot, in a Tesla or a Boeing or anything else, means a set of functionality to reduce your workload by holding attitude and speed, and maybe to make course corrections. It does not mean 100% full-time hands-off operation while it engages you in witty banter with the voice of Anthony Daniels.

    • by daenris ( 892027 )
      Nope. I thought so as well, because that's what the statement in their press materials for it indicated to me. But the truth is it looks like the nag is based on a torque sensor or something on the steering wheel, so it only really nags you when it's going around curves above some threshold. There are videos of people filming their commute where they spend most of the time without their hands on the wheel.
    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Everything I've read about the auto pilot feature states that you need to have your hands on the wheel at all times.

      This. Even with auto pilot on a commercial jet liner, someone has to be in the cockpit at all times, monitoring and ready to take control. Why? In case shit happens. Which is always does, at the most unexpected times. If you want to get from A to B without having to interact with the vehicle in any capacity, ride a bus or call an Uber. Please don't tell me you're so stupid as to honestly claim you didn't know the car really wouldn't drive itself with 0% action on your part. If you are this stupid.. please r

  • tesla never called it safe or secure it clearly says keep hands on wheel.
    • tesla never called it safe or secure it clearly says keep hands on wheel.

      This is from their website:

      Tesla Autopilot relieves drivers of the most tedious and potentially dangerous aspects of road travel. We're building Autopilot to give you more confidence behind the wheel, increase your safety on the road, and make highway driving more enjoyable.

      They don't say you can take your hands of the wheel, but they certainly give that impression.

      • "to give you more confidence behind the wheel" does not give me the impression to take my hands of the wheel.
      • by Xenx ( 2211586 )
        That statement doesn't say anything at all, implied or otherwise, about being able to drive without hands on the wheel. The fact that they say to drive with your hands on the wheel is rather explicit.
  • Auto pilot is not... (Score:2, Informative)

    by AcquaCow ( 56720 )

    ....Autonomous pilot.

    It's designed to reduce the number of inputs a driver/pilot have to make... it is not designed to be used in zero visibility and still requires the driver/pilot to be aware of what is going on and be ready to take control.

  • fucking great (Score:5, Insightful)

    by indy_Muad'Dib ( 869913 ) on Thursday July 14, 2016 @03:40PM (#52512259) Homepage

    im going to lose the best feature of my model S because some asshole decided to watch a movie instead of the road while in his car.

  • I'm entirely willing to believe that Teslas on autopilot get into accidents that their human drivers would have avoided. I'm also very confident that Teslas on autopilot avoid some accidents that their human drivers would have caused/been involved in.

    Question is, which number is higher? If Teslas on autopilot are involved in fewer accidents per mile traveled (adjusted, as much as possible, for type of driving) than human drivers, then autopilot should remain. If the Tesla accident rate is higher, then it

    • by DarkOx ( 621550 )

      Teslas on autopilot are involved in fewer accidents per mile traveled (adjusted, as much as possible, for type of driving) than human drivers

      Not a slam on Tesla here, I totally think they are in the right on this so far every autopilot incident I am aware of the operator was misusing the technology by not paying attention and being prepared to take over as Tesla makes it VERY CLEAR every time you turn the thing on that you are supposed to be.

      That said the statistic is a bit self serving because most users would be driving manually in the most challenging conditions because autopilot can't or won't. I don't know to many human drivers who get int

    • by PPH ( 736903 )

      It will probably be decided based on whether the human or autopilot accidents cost insurance companies more or less. They couldn't give a damn about anything like dead meatbags until they have to pay for it.

      • Agreed, since insurance company costs are very closely correlated to accidents and fatalities.

        The IIHS doesn't do all that crash-test rating and advocacy work just to be nice.

  • Too cautious (Score:4, Interesting)

    by worldthinker ( 536300 ) on Thursday July 14, 2016 @03:46PM (#52512305)

    If I recall correctly, Consumer Reports was the same organization that demerited cars for having electric power windows because they said something to the effect that you'd be trapped in the event your car sank in a body of water.

    It is sad that someone died while using Tesla's "autopilot" feature. But 1) evidence suggests the driver contributed to his own demise by ignoring or circumventing the warnings and safety features of the product 2) the product is only improved by the knowledge gained from this incident making future trips safer for everyone. 3) it is already evident that the rate of fatalities using this mode is already a 35% improvement over non-autopilot users. (1 fatality in 130 million miles driven vs. 1 in 96 million)

    • Re:Too cautious (Score:5, Insightful)

      by jratcliffe ( 208809 ) on Thursday July 14, 2016 @04:05PM (#52512501)

      it is already evident that the rate of fatalities using this mode is already a 35% improvement over non-autopilot users. (1 fatality in 130 million miles driven vs. 1 in 96 million)

      Is this an apples-to-apples comparison? I would imagine that autopilot is much more heavily used on highways than on surface streets. So, if the fatality rate on highways per mile is lower than for surface streets, it wouldn't be an entirely fair comparison.

      I genuinely don't know the answer to this, couldn't find any data close at hand...

    • by Etcetera ( 14711 )

      If I recall correctly, Consumer Reports was the same organization that demerited cars for having electric power windows because they said something to the effect that you'd be trapped in the event your car sank in a body of water.

      Actually that does happen on occasion. It's usually not blamed on the electric windows unless someone else managed to survive and can say what happened, but it factors into it. Do you carry a glass-break device (hammer or whatever) with easy reach in the passenger compartment? If not, you're at risk with automatic locks on a way that someone with a manual override -- that is... a crank -- isn't.

    • by tsqr ( 808554 )

      1 fatality in 130 million miles driven vs. 1 in 96 million

      That is 1 fatality in 130 million miles of Tesla autopilot driving, compared to 1 in 96 million miles for "normal" cars driving in all sorts of weather, road conditions, and traffic conditions. Hardly a fair comparison. And even then, you're ignoring the problems inherent in a relatively small sample size.

  • by l2718 ( 514756 ) on Thursday July 14, 2016 @03:51PM (#52512349)
    As far as I know the documentation and the system in operation both clearly indicate to the user that they must be alert and in control of the vehicle at all times. If the users fails to do that the fault is entirely their own.
    • by TroII ( 4484479 )

      I agree it's mostly the driver's fault, but that doesn't relieve Tesla of liability. If I have a pool in my backyard surrounded by a 10' locked fence, and a kid climbs the fence and drowns in my pool, I can still be sued even though it was the kid's fault. If I have a pit bull in my home, and a burglar breaks in and gets bitten by the dog, I can still be sued even though it was the burglar's fault. Case law is full of suits like this that have been won by the plaintiff.

  • by synapse7 ( 1075571 ) on Thursday July 14, 2016 @03:53PM (#52512377)

    Then they would be sued for every fatality where it was not available. Also, isn't this like suing GM if your cruise control ran you into a semi, or did that happen when cruise be came available?

  • by Charcharodon ( 611187 ) on Thursday July 14, 2016 @03:57PM (#52512425)
    This just in idiots doing idiotic things with technology. I say no to disabling it. Stop protecting stupid people from themselves.
    • This just in idiots doing idiotic things with technology. I say no to disabling it. Stop protecting stupid people from themselves.

      I might agree with this if these "idiots" only endangered themselves. But they can endanger passengers and other cars on the road as well.

      This is like someone arguing in favor of letting people drive drunk or while texting or whatever... "Let the idiots kill themselves!" Except they can kill other people in the process when a multiton vehicle slams into another because of that "idiot." There's the problem here.

  • Tesla is calling on car manufacturers to disable its "Self-pilot" feature that enables self-driving operation. Citing the recent 32,675 [wikipedia.org] fatal accidents involving a car with Self-pilot engaged, Tesla labels the feature as "Too Much Self Reliance Too Soon." Tesla said car manufacturers should "disable self-driving operation until the system can be made safer." "By marketing their vehicles as 'Self-pilot,' car manufacturers gives consumers a false sense of self-determination."

  • ... with the inevitable Pokemon Go autopilot seek mode?

  • Or even palanquins. No-one went though the windscreen (windshield) when they were in use.
  • one death in a tesla and consumer reports freaks...how many deaths are there daily from car accidents and consumer reports are not saying a thing. Makes me wonder who is paying them off!

  • I really don't see a problem with the way that Tesla has implemented this or the name they choose to call it by. Clearly you are going to have some people who push it to the extreme and those people will suffer (or possibly die) because of it. I don't really see how this is all that different from cruise control in general. Cruise control was originally designed to alleviate the physical stress of maintaining a constant speed over long distances (for similar reasons that it exists on planes). Adding the ability for the car to maintain itself in a lane is a further iteration of that, as is the car's limited ability to respond to obstacles in its way. Guess what, if you set cruise control on your car and don't pay attention to changes in traffic ahead of you, you may slam into a car going slower than you, yet none of our cars warn us when we engage cruise control that we should keep checking for cars in front of us (I'm sure it's in the manual in the glove box though). Should Tesla change the name of the feature? I suppose they could, I doubt it would modify anyone's behavior. It doesn't take you that long to realize what the car appears to be able to do before you'll let it steer, accelerate, and brake, regardless of what's it called or what warning messages are read to you.

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