Elon Musk defends calling Tesla’s software ‘Autopilot’ and says criticism that the name is misleading is ‘idiotic’ (TSLA)

  • Elon Musk lashed out against critics of Tesla’s Autopilot in a new interview. 
  • Tesla’s CEO said suggestions that a name change would improve safety are ‘idiotic.’
  • The driver-assistance software has been linked to a handful of crashes, including multiple deaths. 
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

Tesla’s Autopilot software has been linked to multiple deaths and criticized by international trade groups, but you’d be an idiot to denounce its name, Elon Musk says.

The Tesla CEO stuck to his guns about the feature’s name, which experts and government safety agencies have called misleading, in an interview with Automotive News published Monday. Specifically, he lambasted a German judge’s ruling that Tesla’s advertising of the product is misleading, which banned the company from running the ads.

“Absolutely not; that’s ridiculous,” Musk told the industry publication of suggestions the name should be changed.

“The people who misuse Autopilot, it’s not because they’re new to it and don’t understand it,” he continued. “The people who first use Autopilot are extremely paranoid about it. It’s not like, ‘If you just introduced a different name, I would have really treated it differently.’ If something goes wrong with Autopilot, it’s because someone is misusing it and using it directly contrary to how we’ve said it should be used.”

The US National Highway Safety and Traffic Administration is investigating Autopilot’s role in at least 13 crashes since 2016. At least three of those have resulted in deaths, while countless other instances of users mis-using the product have been caught on video. Currently, Autopilot can successfully maintain highway speed and lane control, and Tesla has major goals for its “full self-driving” add-on that’s for sale but not yet actually self-driving. 

“We don’t need any more people getting hurt for us to know that there is a problem and that Tesla and NHTSA have failed to address it,” David Friedman, vice president of advocacy at Consumer Reports and a former NHTSA administrator, told the Associated Press in January. “We don’t need any more people getting hurt for us to know that there is a problem and that Tesla and NHTSA have failed to address it.”

NHTSA said at the time it doesn’t want to limit any potential safety improvements by standing in the way of technology innovation.

To be sure, in-car warnings and all of Tesla’s instructions remind drivers they must have their hands on the wheel at all times and be ready to take over at moment’s notice. Because of the clear rules, Musk isn’t convinced that changing the name would do anything.

“It’s not like some newbie who just got the car and, based on the name, thought they’d instantly trust the car to drive itself,” Musk said. “That’s the idiotic premise of being upset with the Autopilot name. Idiotic.”

Read the full interview here.

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