The government of Germany has issued a warning to all owners of Tesla Motors electric vehicles in the country regarding the usage of the controversial Autopilot function.
According to the Federal Motor Authority, the Autopilot feature of Tesla Motors is a driver assistance system and does not provide vehicles with autonomous driving capabilities. As such, even with the feature turned on, drivers will need to keep their attention on the road at all times.
The warning letter was sent out just after Germany's Federal Highway Research Institute released a new study on the system, which found that the Autopilot feature is a "considerable traffic hazard."
One of the issues that the study raised for the driver assistance system is that with Autopilot activated, a Tesla Motors electric vehicle did not follow the road markings within a construction zone. Additionally, when there were no road markings present, the Autopilot system just had the electric car follow the vehicle that was in front.
The Autopilot feature also presents safety concerns on the German Autobahn, where there are parts with no speed limits. If a Tesla Motors car on Autopilot would be driving the standard 80 miles per hour (mph) along the highway, the system's sensors that detect roughly 40 meters behind will not be able to take into account faster vehicles that could go at over 125 mph.
With these raised issues, the Federal Motor Authority stated that drivers are required to stay alert and remain in control of their cars at all times even while the Autopilot system is activated in their Tesla Motors vehicle.
Drivers should also take note of the advice given in the owner's manual for Tesla Motors vehicles, especially on the limitations of the Autopilot feature.
In addition to the warning letter sent out to owners of its electric vehicles, Tesla Motors was also reportedly asked by the German government to rename the Autopilot system, as its name gives the false idea that it would be safe for drivers to leave all the responsibilities of driving to the electric car.
The issue with the name of the Autopilot system has been previously flagged by Consumer Reports, which claimed that the name is a source of confusion among customers. In addition, drivers could become tempted to rely too much on the feature, which would make their reaction time to potential accidents slower.
According to Consumer Reports, Tesla Motors should disable Autopilot, revamp the technology behind it, and then release it with a new name.