This is not a surprise. Overselling the feature, and generally overselling the features of his car, has been central to the business plan for Tesla Motors.
Does the name "Autopilot" cause people to overestimate the abilities of Tesla's driver-assistance technology? It's a question that comes up in the Ars comments almost every time we write about the feature.Tesla further compounds this issue by promising that full autonomous driving will be available in a matter of the next few months.
Critics warn that some customers will assume something called "Autopilot" is fully self-driving. Tesla's defenders counter by pointing out that autopilot capabilities in planes aren't fully autonomous. Pilots still have to monitor their operation and intervene if they have a problem, and Tesla's Autopilot system is no different.
A new survey from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety brings some valuable hard data to this debate. The group asked drivers questions about the capabilities of five advanced driver-assistance systems (ADAS). They identified the products only by their brand name—"Autopilot," "Traffic Jam Assist," "Super Cruise," etc. Survey participants were not told which carmaker made each product, and they did not learn the capabilities of the products. There were 2,000 total respondents, but each was asked about only two out of five systems, leading to a few hundred responses for each product.
For example, 48 percent of drivers said that it was safe for a driver to take their hands off the wheel when Autopilot is active, compared with around 33 percent for ProPilot Assist and less than 30 percent for the other systems named. Six percent of drivers said it was safe to take a nap in a car with Autopilot, while only three percent said the same for other ADAS systems.
This, and Theranos, is what happens when the Silicon Valley, "Fake it Until You Make It," is applied to the real world.