Germany tells Tesla drivers to keep their eyes on the road with Autopilot
Fri 14 Oct 2016
Germany’s Federal Motor Authority has sent a letter to Tesla owners warning them that they must pay full attention to their driving whilst using the autopilot feature.
The letter advises Tesla motorists that German road regulations mandate that the driver of a vehicle be alert and in control of the vehicle whilst operating it.
Autopilot in Tesla models allows drivers to hand over operation of the vehicle to the onboard computer and has skirted various controversies since its launch a year ago. This latest attention appears to have escalated a collision that occurred on the 28th September, when a Tesla Model S collided with a coach on the A24 between Berlin and Hamburg. At the time the Palo Alto-based company refuted that Autopilot was at fault since it was established that the coach swerved into the driver’s lane.
On October 11th German newspaper Der Spiegel obtained access to a report by the Federal Highway Research Institute at the Germany Transport Ministry, which condemns Tesla’s Autopilot as a ‘considerable traffic hazard’.
The report outlined concern with Autopilot on a number of points, including inadequate reporting to the driver when the system encounters circumstances that it cannot understand or resolve; that the emergency braking is lacking while Autopilot is operating; and that Autopilot does not pay enough attention to rear traffic when attempting to overtake another vehicle.
However, these select criticisms are part of a larger report that is not yet published.
Tesla itself contends that the Autopilot feature is intended to assist drivers rather than change the status of the vehicle to that of a self-driving car.
“Autopilot is a suite of technologies that operate in conjunction with the human driver to make driving safer and less stressful,” Tesla responded to the criticism, and added “Before enabling Autopilot, the driver first needs to agree to ‘keep your hands on the steering wheel at all times’ and to always ‘maintain control and responsibility for your vehicle’.”
German Transport Minister Alexander Dobrindt has come under criticism from some quarters in recent weeks for not taking a tougher line on regulating the 3000 Teslas on Germany’s roads.