That finding reflects a common critique of Autopilot — that it does not go far enough in forcing drivers to maintain their focus on the road. Unlike Autopilot, Super Cruise, a driver-assistance system offered by General Motors, works only on certain highways and tracks drivers’ heads to make sure they are paying attention to the road.
Critics also say Tesla and its chief executive, Elon Musk, have exaggerated Autopilot’s capabilities.
In 2018, for example, Mr. Musk was widely criticized for taking his hands off a Tesla Model 3 steering wheel while demonstrating Autopilot for the CBS News program “60 Minutes,” something the vehicle owner’s manual instructs drivers using Autopilot never to do.
In January, Mr. Musk told investors that Tesla’s “full self-driving capability” might be just a few months from having “some chance of going from your home to work, let’s say, with no interventions.”
Jason Levine, executive director of the Center for Auto Safety, an advocacy group, said that “by calling it Autopilot, by using terms like ‘full self-driving,’ Tesla is intentionally misleading consumers as to the capabilities of the technology.”
To avoid false expectations, German regulators reportedly asked Tesla in 2016 to stop using the term Autopilot, arguing that it suggests that the technology is more advanced than it really is.
Autonomous technology is commonly categorized into six levels, from zero to five, as defined by SAE International, an association of automotive engineers. Level 5 represents full autonomy in which a vehicle can perform all driving functions on its own, including navigating to a chosen destination. Autopilot and Super Cruise are considered Level 2 “partial automation” technologies, which enable a vehicle to control steering and braking and accelerating yet require the full attention of a human driver.