According to a recent poll, many Americans think that cars with an Autopilot feature can drive by themselves. This is simply not true and recently, Tesla’s CEO made a statement confusing the issue. He stated that some of Tesla’s cars are fully self-driving on highways and controlled-access roads.
It is true that certain Tesla models have an Autopilot feature that can suggest and make lane changes on a highway, but the car cannot completely drive itself without input from a human driver. Part of the problem is the vernacular used around self-driving cars, since there are many different names for automatic braking and parking features. There is also mixed communication about what the car can do.
In October 2018, Tesla took down a statement on its website that one of its cars has a full self-driving option, since it later said it was causing too much confusion among customers. The statement was prominently featured on its website. These statements by Tesla or other companies, even if it is different than what appears in the owner’s manual of the car, could influence driver behavior and leave car manufacturers open to legal risk if car owners are unclear about the car’s capabilities.
Mixed Messages from Tesla
Tesla may be reducing its exposure to risk when it displays messages on the car’s screen upon starting. Notices will pop up on the owner’s dashboard stating that the Navigate on Autopilot feature does not make your car autonomous and that the driver is still responsible for the car. Shoppers should be aware that taking their hands off the steering wheel of the car shuts down the Autopilot feature. Additionally, after a crash resulting from the Autopilot feature, the company publicly released statements emphasizing that drivers must always pay attention to the road and that Autopilot does not prevent all accidents.
Mixed messages from the company’s CEO and what consumers read and hear in the media regarding Tesla’s cars may cause confusion about their cars or other types of vehicles that have self-driving features. Whether exaggerated statements can later be used against a company in a lawsuit is questionable. Statements like this have been used in the past against manufacturers in legal disputes, so discretion is always advised.
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