Tesla Autopilot, Full Self-Driving ‘marketing’ under fire from familiar U.S. senator

Credit: Tesla

United States Senator Ed Markey is back to casting stones in the direction of Tesla’s Autopilot, calling for the Federal Trade Commission to investigate “potentially deceptive marketing.”

Markey, a notable critic of Tesla’s Autopilot systems, has had a history of being skeptical and calling for investigations of the company’s semi-autonomous systems on several occasions in the past. Now, Markey, along with Senator Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut, penned a letter to Lina Khan, the head of the FTC, stating they are concerned about Tesla’s “advertising” of Autopilot.

“Tesla and Mr. Musk’s repeated overstatements of their vehicle’s capabilities—despite clear and frequent warnings—demonstrate a deeply concerning disregard for the safety of those on the road and require real accountability,” the Senators wrote, according to the Wall Street Journal“Their claims put Tesla drivers—and all of the traveling public—at risk of serious injury or death.”

Interestingly, Tesla’s statistics have shown Autopilot as an extremely safe alternative compared to human-controlled vehicles. Its most recent safety report had Autopilot-operating vehicles involved in accidents significantly less frequently than the national average.

The request from the Senators comes just days after the NHTSA launched an internal probe into around 765,000 Tesla vehicles built between 2014 and 2021. The root cause of the investigation concerns 11 incidents of Tesla vehicles crashing into emergency vehicles.

Tesla maintains that its Autopilot functionality is not a replacement for human driving altogether. The company states that drivers are required to remain attentive when operating with Autopilot and that they are required to remain alert to the vehicle’s operation and its surroundings.

On its website, under the FAQ section, a question, “Do I still need to pay attention while using Autopilot,” is listed. The company’s response is:

“Yes. Autopilot is a hands-on driver assistance system that is intended to be used only with a fully attentive driver. It does not turn a Tesla into a self-driving car nor does it make a car autonomous.”

Interestingly, several of the accidents under question were caused by the driver’s negligence operating the vehicle, including two cases where the driver was arrested for driving under the influence of alcohol. Another one of the cases involves a driver with a suspended license.

The Senators also included the notorious “Full Self-Driving” video that Tesla released in 2019, which shows a driver operating their vehicle without making any interventions. The video has over 18 million views on YouTube but does not reflect the vehicle’s current capabilities and is only a demonstration of what is to come from Tesla when it reaches Level 5 autonomy.

“As Tesla makes widely available its FSD and Autopilot technology and doubles down on its inflated promises, we are alarmed by the prospect of more drivers relying more frequently on systems that do not nearly deliver the expected level of safety,” the Senators wrote in their memo.

Don’t hesitate to contact us with tips! Email us at tips@teslarati.com, or you can email me directly at joey@teslarati.com.

Joey Klender: Joey has been a journalist covering electric mobility at TESLARATI since August 2019. In his time at TESLARATI, Joey has broken several big stories, including the first images of the Tesla Model S Plaid, the imminent release of the 4680 Model Y through EPA certification, and several expansions to the Lucid AMP-1 factory in Arizona, to name a few. His stories have been featured in several publications, including Yahoo! Finance, Fox News, CNET, and Seeking Alpha. In his spare time, Joey is playing golf, watching MMA, or cheering on any of his favorite sports teams, including the Baltimore Ravens and Orioles, Miami Heat, Washington Capitals, and Penn State Nittany Lions. You can get in touch with joey at joey@teslarati.com. He is also on Twitter @KlenderJoey.
Related Post
Disqus Comments Loading...