Consumer Reports, Industry Experts Dismiss Tesla’s ‘Self-Driving’ Claims

Tesla to show self-driving car progress to investors
Jim WATSON/AFP

Consumer Reports and the Partners for Automated Vehicles Education coalition (PAVE) have both taken issue with Elon Musk’s claims about the self-driving ability of Tesla vehicles. Both organizations strongly disagree with Elon Musk, who claimed it would be “crazy” to buy any car but a Tesla.

Both Consumer Reports and the Partners for Automated Vehicles Education (PAVE) have recently taken issue with Tesla and Elon Musk’s claims about the ability of Tesla vehicles to drive autonomously. Consumer Reports and PAVE announced their issues with Tesla following an investor meeting in which Tesla discussed plans to produce a fully self-driving car and the company claimed that Tesla cars are now being produced with “everything necessary for full self-driving” and that “all you need to do is improve the software.”

David Friedman, Vice President of Advocacy for Consumer Reports, said in a press release:

Technology has the potential to shape future transportation to be safer, less expensive, and more accessible. Yet, safety must always come first. Today’s driver assistance technologies have helped deliver on safety, but the marketplace is full of bold claims about self-driving capabilities that overpromise and underdeliver. For instance, Tesla’s current driver-assist system, ‘Autopilot,’ is no substitute for a human driver. It can’t dependably navigate common road situations on its own, and fails to keep the driver engaged exactly when it is needed most.

We’ve heard promises of self-driving vehicles being just around the corner from Tesla before. Claims about the company’s driving automation systems and safety are not backed up by the data, and it seems today’s presentations had more to do with investors than consumers’ safety.  We agree that Tesla, and every other car company, has a moral imperative to make transportation safer, and all companies should embrace the most important principle: preventing harm and saving lives.

But instead of treating the public like guinea pigs, Tesla must clearly demonstrate a driving automation system that is substantially safer than what is available today, based on rigorous evidence that is transparently shared with regulators and consumers, and validated by independent third-parties. In the meantime, the company should focus on making sure that proven crash avoidance technologies on Tesla vehicles, such as automatic emergency braking with pedestrian detection, are as effective as possible.

In a series of tweets, the PAVE campaign posted “reminders” to consumers, policymakers and the media, stating:

Most vehicles available for sale today offer driver assistance features; in all vehicles available for sale today, even those with the most advanced of these aids, the driver must always monitor and be prepared to control the vehicle. It is damaging to public discussion about advanced vehicle technologies – and potentially unsafe – to refer to vehicles now available for sale to the public using inaccurate terms.

This includes terms such as “fully automated,” “full self-driving,” “fully autonomous,” “auto pilot” or “driverless,” which can create an inaccurate impression of vehicle capabilities that can put drivers and other road users at risk. There are vehicles from several companies now on the roads that feature “self driving” or “autonomous” capability. These vehicles currently include safety drivers or engineers at the controls.

Many of these vehicles are being designed to operate as part of a ride hailing or goods delivery service, so they will not be available for sale to the general public in the near term. PAVE will speak out publicly in instances where industry participants, the media, or public officials mischaracterize the current state of technology.

These statements from Consumer Reports and PAVE come shortly after Elon Musk’s comments at an investors conference this week, in which the CEO stated that he thinks it would be “crazy” to buy any car but a Tesla: “The fundamental message that consumers should be taking today, it is financially insane to buy anything other than a Tesla. It will be like owning a horse in three years. I mean, fine if you want to own a horse. But you should go into it with that expectation.” Musk continued: “Like, people should really think about their purchase … it’s basically crazy to buy any other car but a Tesla. We need to convey that argument clearly, and we will after today.”

Lucas Nolan is a reporter for Breitbart News covering issues of free speech and online censorship. Follow him on Twitter @LucasNolan or email him at lnolan@breitbart.com

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