Tesla’s Autopilot has many fans, but the US Transportation Secretary is not one of them. Pete Buttigieg went all out on the driver-assist package, claiming the term ‘Autopilot’ was an abuse of the word as drivers are still required to keep both hands on the steering wheel.
However, while Buttigieg’s department is investigating Tesla’s driver’s assist package, the minister admits that marketing is not part of the probe.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, an agency under the DOT, is probing Autopilot’s connection to multiple collision and sudden-braking incidents. One of them cleared Autopilot in a fatal crash.
In an interview with Bloomberg, Buttigieg said, “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. 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.”
Bureaucratically, Buttigieg’s department has no jurisdiction over product naming. However, the Justice Department does, and it started probing whether Tesla had been misleading the public on its claims about Autopilot last year.
Tesla recently touted Autopilot’s safety record, claiming one crash every 4.85 million miles.
Tesla markets another product called Full Self-Driving, which despite its name, requires drivers to be fully concentrated on the road and keep their hands on the wheel.