Germany tells Tesla to stop using 'misleading' Autopilot term


The German government has labeled Tesla's use of the Autopilot name to describe its assisted driving technology "misleading" and asked the US car maker to stop using it in advertisements. The system is not currently completely autonomous, as it requires driver supervision, based on SAE standards.

"In order to prevent misunderstanding and incorrect customers’ expectations, we demand that the misleading term 'autopilot' is no longer used in advertising the system", says German transport minister Alexander Dobrindt. "Autopilot is a pure driver assistance program, and not a highly automated vehicle that can be operated without constant attention of the driver".

Based on SAE standards, Autopilot falls between level two and three, out of five levels of automation. Level five describes a completely autonomous driving system. Tesla's system is actually similar to what other car makers call adaptive cruise control, where the car tracks the distance to the vehicles in front and rear to maintain a certain distance and speed, and the road markings to stay in its lane.

Tesla's Autopilot can also enable the car to park itself and drive itself to a parking space, which is not a common feature in the industry at this stage. The remote parking feature is called Summon.

Tesla obviously disagrees with Germany's stance on the matter, saying that what it is doing is no different to what the aviation industry has been doing for decades -- it also calls a system flying a plane under pilot supervision autopilot. However, the comparison may be a stretch, as pilots are better trained than car drivers and more knowledgeable about how the planes they are allowed to fly operate and how their systems work when enabled.

There are numerous reports of Tesla drivers abusing Autopilot, and instances where the use of the system have put them in danger. One driver died earlier this year in Florida, as a result because Autopilot failed to identify a tractor trailer and crashed into its side when it made a turn at an intersection.

Image credit: Celig/Shutterstock

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