In a press release, Congress senator Edward John Markey has attacked Tesla Autopilot and called it a flawed system. He also blamed Tesla for using a misleading name ‘Autopilot’ for its driver assistance system and urged the automaker to rename it.
Markey highlighted media reports of drivers sleeping with Autopilot engaged. There have been at least three fatal crashes in U.S. since Tesla enabled this feature in the end of 2015.
Autopilot allows Tesla vehicles to automatically steer, accelerate and brake in a lane, as well as change lanes without driver input. As per the Tesla’s website, “Current Autopilot features require active driver supervision and do not make the vehicle autonomous.”
According to the statement: “Autopilot is a flawed system, but I believe its dangers can be overcome,” said Senator Markey.
He further said: “I urge Tesla to adopt my commonsense recommendations for fixing Autopilot, which include rebranding and remarketing the system to reduce misuse, as well as building backup driver monitoring tools that will make sure no one falls asleep at the wheel. Tesla can and must do more to guarantee the safety of its technology.”
Tesla responded in a letter to the senator that it has taken measures to verify driver attentiveness after Autopilot is engaged. They said that new warnings for red lights and stop signs were activated with an update in 2019 “to minimize the potential risk of red light or stop sign-running as a result of temporary driver inattention.”
Tesla also clarified that “a few bad actors who are grossly abusing Autopilot” and they are “a very small percentage of our customer base.”
This isn’t the first time senator Markey has targeted Autopilot. In November last year, he asked Tesla to disable the feature until all the flaws have been fixed. He also asked National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) to investigate this matter, to which NHTSA chief James Owens responded that he will contact Tesla to ascertain the facts about these incidents.
He also wrote about it on his Twitter profile:
Tesla can and must do more to guarantee the safety of its misleadingly named “Autopilot” system. Today, I released my recommendations for how Tesla can do more to prevent drivers from falling asleep at the wheel and better protect everyone on the road.https://t.co/FTTiIdJ8or— Ed Markey (@SenMarkey) January 24, 2020