Consumer Advocacy Groups Call for Investigation of ‘Deceptive’ Tesla Autopilot Claims

Tesla CEO Elon Musk unveils the new Tesla factory in Fremont, Calif., Wednesday, Oct. 27, 2010. The new Tesla factory is the former NUMMI plant. (AP Photo/Paul Sakuma)
AP Photo/Paul Sakuma

Two consumer advocacy groups, the Center for Auto Safety and Consumer Watched, have renewed their call for the FTC to investigate Tesla over the company’s claims related to its “autopilot” feature. The organizations believe that Elon Musk and Tesla engage in “dangerously misleading and deceptive practices” when describing the software’s capabilities. In a separate post to social media, safety expert Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger  commented on Tesla’s fully self-driving ambitions, saying they “should concern everyone who will share the same streets as a driver or pedestrian.”

The Center for Auto Safety and Consumer Watchdog, two organizations that previously wrote a letter to the FTC about the claims Elon Musk and Tesla make about the “autopilot” feature built into Tesla vehicles, has renewed their call into the embattled car company. According to the organizations, Americans have died and been injured “as a result of deceptive practices by Tesla making their owners believe that a Tesla with “Autopilot” is an autonomous vehicle capable of self-driving. To be clear, it is not.”

As previously reported by Breitbart News reporter Lucas Nolan:

Tesla’s “autopilot” mode has been a contentious feature in the world of electric vehicles for some time. The actual feature is more like an advanced cruise control that is meant to be used on highways where the vehicle should automatically switch between lanes and monitor speed limits, all while the driver is explicitly told to stay alert and keep both hands on the wheel while autopilot is engaged.

But despite giving these instructions to drivers, Tesla CEO Elon Musk has been known to retweet videos of drivers breaking the rules to show off the supposed abilities of autopilot with no hands on the wheel — a tacit endorsement of the behavior in the opinion of critics.

Both organizations commented on the need for government action:

“Last year we asked the FTC to stop Tesla’s continued deceptive use of the term ‘Autopilot’ before there were more deaths and injuries because of an overreliance on non-autonomous technology,” said Center for Auto Safety Executive Director Jason Levine. “One year later, there has been more unnecessary, preventable tragedy, and more intentional deception by Tesla, including claims of ‘full self-driving capability.’ If the FTC, and the states, do not stop these unlawful representations, the consequences will squarely fall on their shoulders.”

“Tesla has consistently and deceptively hyped its technology, it is time for regulators to step in and protect the public,” said Adam Scow, Senior Advocate for Consumer Watchdog. “Tesla has irresponsibly marketed its technology as safety enhancing, when instead it is killing people.”

The letter to the FTC, which can be read in full here, lays out the practices the organizations believe are deceptive. It reads in part:

Tesla continues to be the only automaker to describe its Level 2 vehicles as “self-driving,” and the name of its driver assistance suite of features, Autopilot, connotes full autonomy. Elon Musk, Tesla’s CEO, frequently misleads and deceives consumers about Autopilot’s safety and capabilities. Also, technical aspects of Autopilot, such as allowing for prolonged periods without touching the steering wheel with no way of determining whether drivers are in fact monitoring their driving environment—a required task for drivers of SAE Level 2 vehicles—deceive and mislead consumers into believing Autopilot makes the car self-driving. These formal and informal representations, combined with the technical features of Tesla vehicles, lead reasonable consumers to believe that Autopilot is more than mere driver assistance.

Center for Auto Safety and Consumer Watchdog are not the only groups who have recently commented on Tesla. Consumer Reports warned in May that Tesla’s autopilot update “doesn’t work very well” and could endanger drivers.

Also in May, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) linked the third death to Tesla’s autopilot system.

Last week safety expert Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger also commented on the potential danger of Tesla’s cars. Sullenberger posted to social media that Tesla’s ambition to have self-driving cars on the road by next should “concern everyone who will share the same streets as a driver or pedestrian.”

Colin Madine is the editor of Breitbart Tech

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