Published: Wed, July 20, 2016
Economy | By Melissa Porter

Elon Musk Tweets Up A Storm About Autopilot

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) requested Tesla detailed information about its autopilot system in a letter sent last week.

Writers at the respected Consumer Reports were enthusiastic fans of the Tesla Model S electric vehicle they bought and drove for more than a year, using enthusiastic language rarely seen in its sober reviews.

After the Pennsylvania crash, Musk said in a tweet that the driver said he was in Autopilot mode when he crashed; however, the crash was not due to the software.

The request from Thune, signaling increased scrutiny on the Silicon Valley heavyweight, came as Consumer Reports magazine urged Tesla to disable the automatic steering function on its electric vehicles due to the crash, which USA safety regulators are investigating. Consumer Reports, the influential magazine, has called on Tesla to disconnect autopilot. Though advanced active safety technology in vehicles could eventually make roads safer, today "we're deeply concerned that consumers are being sold a pile of promises about unproven technology", said Laura MacCleery, vice president of consumer policy and mobilization for the organization, in a statement.

The consumer affairs nonprofit said the Autopilot software doesn't do enough to confirm the driver is keeping his or her hands on the wheel, and it said the Autopilot name "promotes a potentially unsafe assumption that the Model S is capable of driving on its own".

"As road conditions became increasingly uncertain, the vehicle again alerted the driver to put his hands on the wheel".

According to one Tesla owner from Australia, driving a normal vehicle "requires 100 percent of your attention, and when you are driving a Tesla you are running at 80 percent attention".

Tesla quickly issued a response, standing by its cars' feature and iterating that in over 130 million miles of Autopilot testing, there's been only one confirmed fatality. Buyers who used Tesla financing were eligible.

The Florida crash also is drawing attention from congress.

Musk personally backed the program, saying he wanted to give buyers peace of mind. But some have made videos that were posted on YouTube that show the auto driving itself while passengers sit back and watch.

In February, Consumer Reports urged Tesla to change a feature within Autopilot known as Summon, which lets owners start cars and move them out of a garage or parking spot automatically using a key fob or a smartphone. It also found that the cars kept moving when the smartphone app was closed.

In October, the automaker added Autopilot functionality via a software update, but it did stress that the feature was not fully functional.

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