Tesla Autopilot, German drivers, KBA

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Elon Musk’s Tesla have told the German authorities in charge of safety regulations for cars that drivers in Germany know that ‘autopilot’ as used by Tesla does not mean the car is fully automated.

Tesla Autopilot, German drivers, KBA
Tesla motor being driven with autopilot enabled

This is another way of telling the Government to know that the people of Germany who drove Tesla cars are smart and not nearly as stupid as the government makes them out to be.

The latest salvo from Tesla is in response to a request from the government that Tesla should stop using the word ‘Autopilot’ when referring to the cars.

According to the Government, the word might confused drivers into thinking the cars are fully automated.

Tesla Autopilot, German drivers, KBA
KBA building

In response to the Federal Motor Transport Authority, also known as the KBA, Tesla brandished the report of an independent survey carried out among Tesla owners in Germany to prove their point:

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.

98% of customers surveyed said they understand that when using Autopilot, the driver is expected to maintain control of the vehicle at all times.”

When the  row over the use of the word autopilot started, the head of the KBA not only stopped at telling Tesla what to do, funds were made available to educate Tesla car owners Aabout the so-called ‘autopilot’ in the cars.

In the letter, the KBA informed users that in other not to fall foul of the transport laws of Germany, drivers must always be alert when driving the cars.

The believe was that because Tesla used the word ‘autopilot’ in reference to the cars, some people might just leave all driving functions to the cars.

I don’t blame the government into thinking that way though. The first time I saw the word ‘autopilot’ linked with Tesla motors, my first thought was that the cars were fully autonomous. But a little research set me right.

Tesla Autopilot, German drivers, KBA
Elon Musk, CEO of Tesla

But it shouldn’t require a long stretch of the imagination to know that some people wouldn’t bother to read the manual that comes with the car. They’d just believe the new expensive sedan they bought is a fully autonomous vehicle.

I am sure many people must have bought the cars with that notion in mind.

The independent research targeted 675 people who owned the Tesla cars in contention. The cars owners were asked seven different questions all related to their understanding of Tesla ‘autopilot’. 98% of respondents, according to the result of the research, were fully aware that the cars are not fully autonomous.

Would the 98% be enough to satisfy the KBA? Perhaps, in the collective minds of the KBA, that 2% who are confused about what autopilot means is enough to raise serious safety concerns about the cars.

Tesla have come under a lot of heat since the first fatality occurred from a driver using a Tesla car. There were calls from numerous people, pressure groups and Governments for Tesla to make serious adjustments to the cars.

Even a well-respected consumer advocacy website went as far as saying production of the cars should be halted.

Tesla Autopilot, German drivers, KBA
Location of the front sensors in Tesla motor

On their part, Tesla have taken several measures to make the cars safer. Which is what any responsible corporation should do in the course of developing a product.

One of the measures taken by Tesla was to modify the sensors. Now, the primary sensors would be radar. Formerly, radar only acted as backup for the camera-based primary sensors.

From a neutral’s perspective, pressure like this from government agencies are good to make manufacturers be on their toes. These would ensure they don’t take customers for granted.

On the other hand, regulatory agencies must be careful not to go over the top just to give people the impression of efficiency in carrying out their functions.

 

image credit: reuters.com; fortune.com; japantimes.co.jp; ted.com

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