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Andrew Yang misuses Tesla Model X's Autopilot function, taking hands off the wheel

In a new campaign ad, the Democratic presidential candidate takes both his hands off the wheel while the driving assistance feature is in use -- a big no-no.

This story is part of Elections 2020, CNET's coverage of the voting in November and its aftermath.

Democratic presidential hopeful Andrew Yang has been big on what automation will do, and has already done, to the American economy, but he may have been a little too enthusiastic about the technology in his new campaign ad.

In the new advertisement, embedded above, Yang is seen driving a Tesla Model X with Autopilot engaged. At the 20-second mark in the 30-second-long spot, Yang is seen driving the electric SUV with both hands off the wheel while on the road. 

That's not how Autopilot is supposed to be used. Tesla warns drivers every time Autopilot engages with a message reminding drivers to keep their hands on the wheel.

Neither the Yang campaign nor Tesla immediately responded to a request for comment.

Today, there are no self-driving cars on sale. Next year, there will be no self-driving cars on sale. Still, numerous Tesla owners opt to let the system work on its own, leading to numerous crashes. The "Autopilot" name may have something to do with it, perhaps overpromising its abilities. At the end of the day, though, Autopilot is merely an advanced driving assistance feature and cannot drive on its own, a limitation Tesla is at pains to make clear to drivers.

Yang's ad highlights the growing concern of automation displacing jobs, and uses the apparently self-driving car to underscore that automation is here. At the moment we see the shot of the candidate's hands off the wheel, he delivers a specific line about automation and the transforming economy.

If the shot was a mistake, Yang should apologize and retract the ad. If it was intentional, to underscore how much things have changed -- and maybe get some free media coverage, like this story -- it's even more of a misjudgment. Always keep your hands on the wheel, America.

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