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German Transport Minister tells Tesla owners to follow the instructions when using Autopilot

A member of the media test drives a Tesla Motors Inc. Model S car equipped with Autopilot in Palo Alto, California, U.S., on Wednesday, Oct. 14, 2015. Tesla Motors Inc. will begin rolling out the first version of its highly anticipated "autopilot" features to owners of its all-electric Model S sedan Thursday. Autopilot is a step toward the vision of autonomous or self-driving cars, and includes features like automatic lane changing and the ability of the Model S to parallel park for you. Photographer: David Paul Morris/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Last week, we reported on excerpts of an alleged evaluation of the Tesla Autopilot by the Federal Highway Research Institute of Germany’s Transport Ministry. The excerpts showed a harsh critique of Tesla’s advanced driver assistance system (ADAS) calling it a “significant traffic hazard”.

It created a lot of headlines in Germany where some publications reported that the Transport Minister could call for a ban on the Autopilot feature on German roads, but today we learn that the report resulted in a simple yet unusual letter to Tesla owners in Germany.

As we suggested in our report, the evaluation of the Federal Highway Research Institute appeared to be so harsh because it reads as if they were  benchmarking the Autopilot as a self-driving system – something it is not.

In a thorough response Tesla sent us following the report, the company focused on explaining the concept of the Autopilot and how driver needs to be vigilant and be ready to take control, as well as the steps Tesla is taking in order to ensure that drivers follow those instructions.

Now Tesla owners in Germany are receiving a letter from the Federal Motor Authority literally telling them to follow the instructions from Tesla when using Autopilot – an obvious yet reasonable demand since it has not always been the case.

Here’s a Google translate of the letter obtained by Bild via Mobilegeeks (German):

“Dear (r) Mr / Ms …,

According to the documents present here you are the owner of a vehicle [brand] [model]. Should the manufacturer offered driver assistance system “Autopilot” be built-in your vehicle, I see myself in front of the perception in the public for this assistance system discussion prompted to draw your attention to the following:

The system built-in your vehicle called “autopilot” is a pure driver assistance system and not to a highly automated vehicle that can be operated without constant attention of the driver.

The use of this system in your vehicle requires at any time of its operation the constant and undivided attention of the user with respect to the directly prevailing traffic situation in order to comply with the legislation on road traffic (especially StVO) can.

Please observe also in the manufacturer’s instructions for this purpose designated behavioral clues. This especially concerns which are listed in the chapter “Driver Assistance” “restrictions”, describing the system boundaries and the associated warnings.

In this context, there is executed the following: “It is for the driver to stay alert, drive safely and at any time to keep control of the vehicle.”

Should you not be more holders of the above-identified vehicle, I beg you, the Federal Motor Transport Authority (KBA) to announce the name and address of the new holder or the whereabouts of the vehicle. If you are prompted specified in the letter e-mail address. [Alternative: reply card Add]

Best regards”

While it’s curious for a government regulatory agency to send a letter to car owners reminding them to use a feature of their vehicle as instructed by the manufacturer, it is understandable if the perception of the Tesla Autopilot really got out of hand in Germany – though we don’t have much evidence of that

At the end of the day, there are built-in features in vehicles that are used despite regulations, like top speed higher than the speed limit. Admittedly, that’s less of a problem in Germany.

Featured Image: A member of the media test drives a Tesla Motors Inc. Model S car equipped with Autopilot in Palo Alto, California, U.S., on Wednesday, Oct. 14, 2015. Photographer: David Paul Morris/Bloomberg

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