Ralph Nader Calls For Tesla Autopilot to Be Recalled

·3 min read
Photo credit: PATRICK PLEUL/Getty Images
Photo credit: PATRICK PLEUL/Getty Images

Ralph Nader, the renowned consumer and automotive safety advocate, has issued a statement calling on the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to recall Tesla's Autopilot driver-assistance system.

"Tesla's major deployment of so-called 'Full Self-Driving' technology is one of the most dangerous and irresponsible actions by a car company in decades," Nader's statement said. "Tesla never should have put this technology in its vehicles."

Nader joins a growing cabal of consumers, public officials, and experts who have criticized Tesla's cavalier approach to autonomy. The company has offered a "Full Self-Driving" package for its cars since 2016, saying then that its cars would be able to drive themselves cross country by the end of 2017. The company has so far not delivered on that promise, but has taken the unprecedented step of releasing a beta version of its fully autonomous program that still places all responsibility on the driver. Relying on untrained, private operators without geographic restrictions is a serious departure from industry practice of training autonomous software in carefully mapped areas with trained safety drivers.

Multiple videos show just how far the technology is from being reliable and safe, with "FSD" cars often swerving out of lanes, blowing stop lights, driving the wrong way in traffic, and nearly missing vehicles and pedestrian traffic. Still, Tesla CEO's bombastic claims and the company's dedicated fanbase contribute to a frightening degree of confidence in the system. One pro-Tesla news account, after seeing a video where a Tesla fails to recognize a child dummy crossing its path and hits the simulated child, said that the Tesla must have simply detected that it was not a real child. Never mind that the car shouldn't try to hit anything, the account owner offered to recreate the real test. He took to Twitter to ask who would volunteer to put their child in the path of a moving Tesla, with the promise that a human safety driver would make such an exercise "completely safe."

Nader points out that overconfidence in this system has already contributed to a growing number of incidents and fatalities. NHTSA, his statement points out, has been "investigating" the issue for years without firm action. The regulator can force automakers to recall vehicles with safety defects, a power Nader is now asking it to use in order to prevent further safety issues with the software.

"This nation should not allow this malfunctioning software which Tesla itself warns may do 'wrong thing at the wrong time' on the same streets where children walk to school," he said.

He closed his statement: "No one is above the laws of manslaughter."

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