NHTSA issues cease and desist for Tesla Autopilot Buddy

US Department of Transportation thinks the Autopilot cheat device is a really, really bad idea. We couldn't agree more.

Steven Ewing Former managing editor
Steven Ewing spent his childhood reading car magazines, making his career as an automotive journalist an absolute dream job. After getting his foot in the door at Automobile while he was still a teenager, Ewing found homes on the mastheads at Winding Road magazine, Autoblog and Motor1.com before joining the CNET team in 2018. He has also served on the World Car Awards jury. Ewing grew up ingrained in the car culture of Detroit -- the Motor City -- before eventually moving to Los Angeles. In his free time, Ewing loves to cook, binge trash TV and play the drums.
Steven Ewing
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Autopilot Buddy clips to a Tesla's steering wheel in an attempt to cheat the system's warnings about hands-off operation. Dumb, right?


Don't get me wrong, Tesla's Autopilot technology is pretty darn neat. But anyone trying to cheat the system in an attempt to experience long periods of hands-off-the-wheel driving is, well, stupid.

We recently told you about a little thing called Autopilot Buddy, a product marketed as a "nag reduction device" for Tesla's semi-autonomous system. It uses a small, weighted device that adds minor amounts of torque to the steering wheel -- enough to reduce the number of warnings about hands-off Autopilot operation. It clips to either side of a Tesla's steering wheel and is connected with magnets. It's dumb AF.

Thankfully, we're not the only ones who think so. The US Department of Transportation's National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has issued a formal cease and desist letter to the company responsible for Autopilot Buddy.

The cease and desist order mandates that the Autopilot Buddy company respond by June 29, 2018. The company must confirm to NHTSA that all US marketing, sales and distribution have ended. It's unclear if NHTSA plans to take any action regarding Autopilot Buddy devices that may have already been sold.

The Autopilot Buddy website states that the product "is not intended to be a hands-off device" and that it "is for track use only." The site also states it is "not taking orders inside the USA at this time," though right below that note are links to purchase Autopilot Buddy for Model S, Model X and Model 3 vehicles, which take you to a separate PayPal checkout page. The price has also increased from its original $179 to $199.

"We support NHTSA's action regarding this product," a Tesla spokesperson told Roadshow .

"A product intended to circumvent motor vehicle safety and driver attentiveness is unacceptable," NHTSA deputy administrator Heidi King said in an official statement. "By preventing the safety system from warning the driver to return their hands to the wheel, this product disables an important safeguard, and could put customers and other road users at risk."

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