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Autonomous Vehicles

Double Standard For “Tesla Autopilot” Versus Legacy Automaker ADAS Terminology

The idea that Tesla shouldn’t use the name “Autopilot” for its advanced driver-assist systems (ADAS) is pretty popular among Tesla’s critics. The core argument, in a nutshell, is that people aren’t smart enough to understand that this is a driver-assist package, not a perfect replacement for a human driver. It’s all Tesla’s fault, of course.

There are massive double standards here, though. To say that Tesla needs to stop using the term Autopilot as the name for its software is silly, especially when other automakers use similar names for their ADAS. Yes, sadly, drivers do make mistakes. Some run red lights, get in the driver’s seat drunk, and play on their phones while driving. People have been doing this since before Tesla launched Autopilot. So, I don’t see the point in blaming Tesla for humans doing what they would do with or without Tesla’s Autopilot.

Nissan has ProPILOT, a hands-on driver-assist system. GM has CoPilot. And Mercedes has Drive Pilot, a supposedly level 3 automated driving system. (Regarding the “Intelligent Drive Autopilot” screenshot above, that is apparently from a 2013 ad.) All of these have the same word, pilot, in them.

The argument against Tesla is that customers will get complacent or trust the car too much and easily get distracted. They will forget to pay attention. And, yes, some have done this and it has resulted in accidents. So have drivers misusing cruise control, or just automobiles in general, and it has surely happened with drivers using these other ADAS.

The idea that Tesla should change the name of Autopilot while other automakers get to use some form of that themselves is clearly a double standard. All of these driver assist systems require the driver to still be in control in some fashion or another. I think that instead of blaming Tesla for the name of its ADAS, critics should be focused on more important matters.

Is Tesla’s Autopilot perfect? No, and everyone knows it isn’t perfect, because Tesla wouldn’t be seeking to release new updates or working toward a big FSD Beta rollout and continuous FSD learning and improvement if it was perfect. Instead of using their political power to address drinking and driving, or drivers not following the law, Senators Blumenthal and Markey would rather focus on Tesla terminology. The two senators claimed that their concern is how Tesla is marketing and advertising the capabilities of its ADAS tech. Of course, Tesla doesn’t advertise anything. And in terms of marketing, Tesla specifically states that FSD is in beta and that drivers with either FSD or Autopilot need to pay attention at all times and be prepared to take over. That seems quite well known and widely accepted.

Real Solutions

Instead of demanding that Tesla change the name of its software, let’s focus on actual solutions that would work. We know that drinking and driving are rampant in the US. It’s so common that the typical punishments of tickets, fines, and eventual license suspension or even jail time apparrently aren’t enough to deter many people from driving drunk. Even the idea of accidentally taking a life, whether their own or someone else’s, doesn’t discourage them from driving drunk. They think, “Oh, I’m fine. I only had 1 or 2 drinks. I can drive.”

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has suggested an interesting solution. Perhaps lawmakers could require that ignition interlocks be installed on the vehicles of those convicted of drinking and driving — including first-time offenders. These devices would measure the alcohol on the drivers’ breath, and if their blood alcohol content is above the legal level, the interlocks would prevent the vehicles from starting. I’ll add to this: Make the drunk driver pay for the installation of this device. And put a note on their license that their vehicle needs to have this device installed. If they are caught driving another vehicle without that device, then perhaps they should get a high fine or temporary suspension of their license.

That last bit may sound harsh, but if you can’t trust someone to not drink and drive, then you can’t trust them to drive safely.

 
 
 
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Johnna owns less than one share of $TSLA currently and supports Tesla's mission. She also gardens, collects interesting minerals and can be found on TikTok

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