The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has issued a cease and desist letter to Dolder, Falco and Reese Partners, LLC, the company that makes an idiotic and dangerous product called the Autopilot Buddy, a $199 lump of plastic and magnets that fools a Tesla’s Autopilot system into thinking you’re paying attention.
NHTSA Deputy Administrator Heidi King described the Autopilot Buddy in harsh, realistic terms:
“A product intended to circumvent motor vehicle safety and driver attentiveness is unacceptable. By preventing the safety system from warning the driver to return hands to the wheel, this product disables an important safeguard, and could put customers and other road users at risk.”
It’s important to remember that Tesla’s Autopilot is not a fully-autonomous driving system. At best, it’s a Level 2 system, which requires constant attention from the driver, who must be ready to take control of the car at a moment’s notice.
The Autopilot Buddy is designed to fool the car into thinking a driver’s hand is on the wheel and paying attention, freeing the idiot who bought one from the responsibility of making sure their not-autonomous car doesn’t crash into anyone or anything, as we’ve already seen happen several times before.
Hilariously, the company that makes the Autopilot Buddy tries to cover their ass by saying it’s for “track use only” (listen for it in that video there) as though anyone ever is going to take a Tesla to a track so they can, what, put it in Autopilot, attach this stupid rubber dingus and maybe nap as their car circles the track? Come on, assholes, you know how people are going to use this thing, and it’s not on a freaking track.
The Autopilot Buddy and products like it are especially dangerous in light of the misconceptions many Tesla owners seem to hold about what Autopilot is actually capable of. Recently, the Center for Auto Safety and Consumer Watchdog groups called on the Federal Trade Commission to investigate Tesla regarding claims about Autopilot’s abilities as conveyed via Tesla’s marketing and advertising.
The letter directs the company to respond by June 29, 2018, and to certify to NHTSA that all U.S. marketing, sales, and distribution of the Autopilot Buddy has ended. As of press time, the Autopilot Buddy webpage was still active, and Autopilot Buddy products for the Teslas Model S, X, and 3 were available for purchase if you’re an idiot with $200 and a death wish.