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So 7% of German Tesla owners think they own a fully self-driving car?

Fri 11 Nov 2016

Opinion Tesla has posted an uncharacteristically brief rebuttal to assertions made by Germany’s Federal Motor Authority, warning Tesla drivers that their car’s Autopilot feature does not excuse them from giving the road – and the wheel – their undivided attention, like all other drivers.

The rebuttal reads:

‘In response to Germany’s Kraftfahrt-Bundesamt (KBA)’s suggestion that using the name “Autopilot” is misleading, we worked with a third-party to survey Tesla owners in Germany to better understand how they perceive Autopilot.’

The post then links to a survey which Tesla had third-party Xpuls carry out on German Tesla owners between 4th-8th November.

It is a strange report to post, since it doesn’t negate the German authorities’ concern about cavalier use of autonomous or semi-autonomous Tesla car features quite as much as one presumes the company was hoping.

One notable statistic is found on page 4. In response to the question ‘Has the name “Autopilot” caused you to believe that the car is fully autonomous, meaning that it does not require the driver to be supervising the car?’, 93% responded ‘Yes’.

Tesla does not detail its European sales, and never reports exact figures for an entire year, so it’s difficult to estimate how many Tesla cars are registered in Germany. In March 2016, registration figures for the Model S stood at 267 units, beating its previous December record of 234, with Q1 figures up 35% on the previous year, but no hard figures available.

But assuming a conservative estimate of 225 cars per month, the tally seems to run at around 5000 registered, Autopilot-capable Teslas in Germany. So that’s 350 Tesla-owning German drivers who, according to the survey, believe that ‘Autopilot’ means they have bought a self-driving vehicle.

Even the report’s own conclusions are a little uncommitted: ‘A significant majority of german [SIC] Tesla customers understand the meaning and functions of the Autopilot…Based on the [car’s] warnings about 98% of the current Tesla owners understand to maintain control of the vehicle at all times.’ (my italics)

So let’s be generous and, despite the previous 93% figure, assume that 98% of Tesla’s German drivers understand how serious the situation is. That’s still 100 drivers who think they’re in Blade Runner. Assuming parity for Tesla’s customers worldwide, that’s 2,500 people, on the road, right now, who don’t get it. And since it only takes one to kill you, one wonders if The Register is right to think of Autopilot as ‘super cruise control’, rather than anything that can be equated to a true replacement for a human driver. And one wonders if anything less than 100% is really acceptable where such bleeding-edge technology exits the lab onto the main road.

Tags:

Europe feature Germany legal research Tesla
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