Germany’s transport minister asked Tesla on Sunday to rename the Autopilot feature on the company’s vehicles.
In a letter to the company, minister Alexander Dobrindt expressed concern that the name of the feature is misleading and may encourage drivers to believe they don’t need to pay attention to the road.
Autopilot is a driver-assistance aid that allows drivers maintain speeds and ensure they stay within the lines, which is particularly useful on highways and long-distance journeys. It is not the same as autonomous-driving technology, which is designed to let the driver take their hands off the wheel and their eyes of the road. That hasn’t stopped many drivers acting like it is, though, and in some cases overestimating Autopilot’s capabilities with fatal results.
The company has always been clear with customers that Autopilot still requires drivers to pay attention at all times, said a Tesla spokeswoman in a statement. It is a term that has been used in aerospace for decades, she added.
“Just as in an airplane, when used properly, Autopilot reduces driver workload and provides an added layer of safety when compared to purely manual driving,” the statement said. “We have great faith in our German customers and are not aware of any who have misunderstood the meaning, but would be happy to conduct a survey to assess this. ”
The Kraftfahrt-Bundesamt did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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