Tesla has been ordered by the German government to stop using the phrase ‘Autopilot’ to describe the driving assistance feature in the Tesla EVs. The government argued that it was a misnomer that led the driver to believe that the electric car was autonomous and could drive itself.
The German newspaper Bild am Sonntag reported that the minister Alexander Dobrindt has written to Tesla asking it to change the name of the driving assistant mode. The letter stated that:
“In order to prevent misunderstandings and false customer expectations, we demand that we no longer use the misleading concept of autopilot in the application of the system.”
Tesla developed Autopilot as a driving assistance mode, not as a driver! When activated, your Tesla will alert you to the fact that it is ‘an assist feature that requires you to keep your hands on the steering wheel at all times.’ The Tesla spokesperson responded that the term ‘Autopilot’ has been in use in the aerospace domain for decades, yet, no one ever confused it with an autonomous system. However, Tesla must not forget the airline pilots are trained professionals. Also, an aeroplane does not face a busy road filled with cars and can cruise through the relatively unpopulated air without looking ahead.
It must be remembered that Germany is one of the first European countries that is amending its traffic laws to accommodate the autonomous cars. The government is already in consultation with the industry to devise new legislation.
Tesla has repeatedly received backlash for numerous, and a few fatal, accidents involving the Autopilot. The death of Joshua Brown in the crash when Autopilot was engaged signifies the point of the German government. Brown must have kept his eyes on the road and hands on the steering wheel, but his faith in the Autopilot feature of the Model S led him to his death. Following the tragic accident, Tesla released the new update to the Autopilot that does not allow you to engage the feature if you are not attentive to the road.
After the accident, Tesla also updated the Autopilot to prevent inattentive users from engaging the Autopilot feature.