Tesla debunks claim that German owners don’t understand Autopilot

One month ago, Alexander Dobrindt, Germany’s transport minister, sent a letter to every Tesla owner in the country warning them that using the Autopilot feature in their vehicles did not relieve them of the responsibility to remain alert and attentive to their driving at all times.

German newspaper Der Spiegel reported at the time that the Transport Ministry is conducting studies of how Autopilot operates, citing an internal memo calling the system a “considerable traffic hazard.” Dobrindt has all but ordered Tesla to stop using the word “Autopilot” to describe its suite of driver assistance functions.

To fend off the allegations from Dobrindt, Tesla hired German polling firm puls to survey German Tesla owners and find out if they really understand what Autopilot is and how to use it correctly. Between November 4 and November 8, puls conducted 675 online interviews with German Tesla drivers finding that 98% understand they are expected to maintain control of their vehicle at all times when using Autopilot.

puls autopilot survey results

Based on the survey results, the polling firm concludes that German drivers are quite aware of the capabilities and limitations of the Autopilot system.

A significant majority of German Tesla customers understand the meaning and functions of the Autopilot. On the one hand they are aware of the car warnings that Tesla provides, on the other hand the customers also know that they have to keep
control over their car.

Different to what is heard in the media, Tesla owners absorb the information that appears on the center screen of the car. Besides that the name “Autopilot” did not cause the customers to believe that the car is fully autonomous. Based on the warnings, about 98% of the current Tesla owners understand to maintain control of the vehicle at all times.

Tesla knows it must convince regulators that its upcoming Full Self-Driving capability is safe before it gets approval to take things to the next level — Level 5 full autonomy. Elon Musk says a Tesla will make a fully autonomous journey across America in 2017. “Our goal is, we’ll to be able to do a demonstration drive of full autonomy all the way from LA to New York,” Musk told the press when the the company announced that new vehicles will be equipped with a suite of eight cameras, radar, and advanced ultrasonic sensors. Tesla’s with the new “hardware 2” will be able to go “from home in LA, to dropping you off in Times Square, and then the car will go park itself,” says Musk.

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