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Tesla Autopilot name defies common sense, Buttigieg says

U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg has added his voice to the chorus of doubters reflecting on Tesla’s concept of its “Autopilot” system, saying the descriptive name doesn’t make “common sense.”

In an interview with Bloomberg News in Washington, Buttigieg says, “I wouldn’t call something ‘Autopilot’ if the manual explicitly says that you have to have your hands on the wheel and the eyes on the road all the time,” Buttigieg said. “That’s not saying anything about the NHTSA scope of investigation, I’m just saying at a common sense level. I think that’s a concern.”

In February, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), which is an agency of the Department of Transportation, announced that Tesla will recall over 360,000 vehicles because its “Full-Self Driving” (FSD) Beta driver assistance feature “may allow the vehicle to act unsafe around intersections,” including traveling straight while in turn-only lanes. As Buttigieg alluded, NHTSA and the NTSB have investigated crashes involving Tesla Autopilot for years, a slow pace that safety advocates have criticized.

Tesla says that its Autopilot features require “active driver supervision and do not make the vehicle autonomous.”

Last summer, Lina Khan, chair of the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) said troubling data about the realities of Autopilot had surfaced, and the FTC had the issue “on our radar” as to whether the name is deceptive to consumers.

Additionally, the Department of Justice is looking into whether the EV maker has made misleading statements about its driver assistance systems.

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