Tesla Rebuffs Consumer Reports' Critique of AutoPilot Features in Wake of Accidents

Tesla Motors has rejected calls to disable its automated driving systems.

“While we appreciate well-meaning advice from any individual or group, we make our decision on the basis of real-world data, not speculation by the media," a spokesman for the company said today.

In a lengthy article published today, Consumer Reports said that the system “increases the possibility that drivers using AutoPilot may not be engaged enough to react quickly to emergency situations.” It also said that Tesla’s marketing strategy around it creates “potential for driver confusion” and has been “uniquely aggressive in its deployment,” when compared to other car manufactures releasing similar technology.

Tesla’s website notes that “Drivers must keep their hands on the steering wheel,” for the vehicle to steer itself. But Consumer Reports says that Tesla “is the only manufacturer that allows drivers to take their hands off the wheel for significant periods of time.”

Among other demands, the consumer advocacy group called on Tesla to rename AutoPilot “as it is misleading and potentially dangerous," and to disable the system’s automatic steering system until it could be “reprogrammed to require drivers to keep their hands on the steering wheel."

In an email to ABC News today, a Tesla spokesperson -- speaking on the condition of anonymity -- hit back, saying, “Tesla is constantly introducing enhancements proven over millions of miles of internal testing to ensure that drivers supported by Autopilot remain safer than those operating without assistance,” and vowed that the company would “continue to develop, validate, and release those enhancements as the technology grows."

The spokesperson also pointed to a statement the company released in June, which noted that “the data is unequivocal that Autopilot reduces driver workload and results in a statistically significant improvement in safety when compared to purely manual driving.”

The crash in early May in Williston, Florida, resulted in the death of Joshua Brown of Canton, Ohio, according to authorities. AutoPilot was active at the time of the crash and failed to distinguish between the broadside of a tractor-trailer and the bright sky, officials said.

Tesla did not immediately respond to ABC News request for comment on the investigations.

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