Germany to Tesla: “Stop using the name Autopilot”

  • November 5, 2016

The German Transport Minister Alexander Dobrindt has written to Tesla calling on the company to stop using the ‘misleading’ term ‘Autopilot’ in its advertising.

According to Reuters, the letter was sent last month and was followed by a letter from the KBA – The German Federal Motor Transport Authority – to all Tesla owners warning that their cars could not be operated without their ‘constant attention’.

Tesla has apparently rejected the request to change the name of its system – the German version of the Tesla website still uses the term. A spokeswoman told Reuters that the company had always made it clear to customers that the assistance system required drivers to pay attention at all times.

The exchange came a month after Tesla updated its Autopilot software in the U.S. to increase the frequency of warnings given to the driver to keep his or her hands on the wheel while using the feature. That change came in the aftermath of the death of a Tesla driver in Florida who was reportedly watching a film when his vehicle failed to brake automatically for a lorry turning across the road in front.

Tesla’s rapid push to make a fully self-driving vehicle took a new turn in October when the company announced that all new vehicles, including those currently being produced in its factories, would be fitted with hardware which could enable such a mode in the future.  However existing cars won’t get the upgrade, potentially creating confusion among drivers about what level of autonomy their vehicle supports. Older vehicles will still see future updates to the Autopilot driver assistance software, but they will never be fully automated.

Antonio Avenoso, Executive Director of ETSC said: “Over the air updates and hardware upgrades raise many questions. Will drivers understand the differences between different levels of autonomy and know exactly what their vehicle supports? And what will happen with older vehicles? After twelve or fifteen years, will Tesla still be offering software updates to improve safety or deal with potentially-lethal bugs that may come to light long after a vehicle is launched?  Regulators will need to completely change their approach to deal with these developments.”