Car Industry

Germany tells Tesla Autopilot users: Pay attention, dummkopf

It might seem like common sense to keep an eye on where you're going, but recent accidents may suggest otherwise.

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If anyone took the time to read the owner's manual, they'd find plenty of reminders to pay attention during Autopilot use.

Tesla

Tesla's Autopilot has nothing to do with full-on autonomy, but some drivers act like it does. That's why the German government has issued a warning to drivers that choose to use this suite of driver-assistance aids.

Germany's Federal Motor Authority sent a letter to Tesla owners, Reuters reports, reminding them to pay attention at all times during Autopilot use. The letter points out that Autopilot does not grant the vehicle autonomy, but rather it's a system meant to assist the driver in traffic and on long highway slogs.

The letter comes on the heels of several high-profile crashes, exacerbated by the hype around the company. Drivers have overestimated Autopilot's abilities, sometimes with fatal results. Inquiries have been launched, and doubt has been cast on Autopilot's capabilities, but it really boils down to exercising situational awareness and common sense.

The US government launched its own investigation after a man died in October while using Autopilot, which failed to see a truck cut in front of the vehicle. Germany's government has kicked off its own study into Autopilot, and according to German magazine Der Spiegel, the resulting report considered the system a hazard -- which it is, if people aren't using it correctly.

No car on the road today is fully autonomous. Even the development mules from Uber, Google and others still place a human in the driver's seat, just in case something goes awry. If you choose to use a driver-assistance system, whether it's Tesla's Autopilot, Mercedes-Benz's Drive Pilot or Volvo's Pilot Assist, never rely on the system completely. Always be prepared to take control, whether the system tells you to or not.

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