Senator Wants Tesla to Make Safety Fixes to Autopilot

A U.S. Senator says Autopilot is a risk to drivers and others on the roads.
Donna Fuscaldo

Tesla is facing calls from a U.S. Senator to make safety fixes to its autopilot system. 

In a press release, Democrat Senator Edward Markey of Massachuttes took issues with certain areas of its autopilot feature that enable a Tesla vehicle to center itself in a lane, provide speed changing cruise control and self-park among other things.  Markey sits on the Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee.


Senator says Tesla drivers 'over-rely' on Autopilot 

Markey said that by calling it Autopilot it encourages users to "over-rely" on the technology and think they can take their hands off the steering wheel. To get around that the Senator is calling on Tesla to rebrand and remarket Autopilot to make it clear that its a driver's assistance system not a fully autonomous capability. 

Markey also said the system's safeguards that include safety alerts and an automatic shut off feature to activate when the Autopilot user is no longer paying attention can be circumvented by drivers. He said techniques to get around the safeguards have been posted online and can cause huge safety risks to drivers and others on the roads. He wants Tesla to build a backup monitoring system arguing that if the system can be tricked there should be more redundancy built-in. 

“Autopilot is a flawed system, but I believe its dangers can be overcome,” said Senator Markey.

 “I have been proud to work with Tesla on advancing cleaner, more sustainable transportation technologies. But these achievements should not come at the expense of safety. That’s why I’m calling on Tesla to use its resources and expertise to better protect drivers, passengers, pedestrians, and all other users of the road. 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.”

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Tesla calls some of the online videos fake

In response, Tesla said in a letter Autopilot is designed to assist the driver in performing tasks not do it for them and that it "significantly" increases occupant safety. As for those online videos showing you how to trick Autopilot, Tesla dismissed some of it as fake news.

"While some online videos show that there are a few bad actors who are grossly abusing Autopilot, these represent a very small percentage of our customer base. We believe that many of these videos are fake and intended to capture media attention," wrote Alexandra N. Veitch, Senior Director, Government Relations & Policy at Tesla in the letter to Markey. "Nonetheless, we continually monitor for and review these videos and correlate fleet data to determine whether we can eliminate actions that lead to irresponsible and unsafe driving.

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