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Consumer Reports: Tesla Must Prove Safety Before Claiming “Self-Driving” Ability

Company must rigorously, transparently demonstrate safety improvements, says CR

WASHINGTON, D.C.—Tesla today discussed new details about driving automation in its vehicles and its plans for pursuing fully self-driving cars. As part of an event with investors, the company said that all Tesla cars now being produced have “everything necessary for full self-driving” and “all you need to do is improve the software.”

David Friedman, Vice President of Advocacy for Consumer Reports, said, “Technology has the potential to shape future transportation to be safer, less expensive, and more accessible. Yet, safety must always come first. Today’s driver assistance technologies have helped deliver on safety, but the marketplace is full of bold claims about self-driving capabilities that overpromise and underdeliver. For instance, Tesla’s current driver-assist system, ‘Autopilot,’ is no substitute for a human driver. It can’t dependably navigate common road situations on its own, and fails to keep the driver engaged exactly when it is needed most.

“We’ve heard promises of self-driving vehicles being just around the corner from Tesla before. Claims about the company’s driving automation systems and safety are not backed up by the data, and it seems today’s presentations had more to do with investors than consumers’ safety.  We agree that Tesla, and every other car company, has a moral imperative to make transportation safer, and all companies should embrace the most important principle: preventing harm and saving lives.

“But instead of treating the public like guinea pigs, Tesla must clearly demonstrate a driving automation system that is substantially safer than what is available today, based on rigorous evidence that is transparently shared with regulators and consumers, and validated by independent third-parties. In the meantime, the company should focus on making sure that proven crash avoidance technologies on Tesla vehicles, such as automatic emergency braking with pedestrian detection, are as effective as possible.”

Contact: David Butler, dbutler@consumer.org, 202-462-6262

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Consumer Reports is an independent, nonprofit membership organization that works side by side with consumers to create a fairer, safer, and healthier world. For 80 years, CR has provided evidence-based product testing and ratings, rigorous research, hard-hitting investigative journalism, public education, and steadfast policy action on behalf of consumers’ interests. Unconstrained by advertising or other commercial influences, CR has exposed landmark public health and safety issues and strives to be a catalyst for pro-consumer changes in the marketplace. From championing responsible auto safety standards, to winning food and water protections, to enhancing healthcare quality, to fighting back against predatory lenders in the financial markets, Consumer Reports has always been on the front lines, raising the voices of consumers.

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