As Elon Musk promises ‘full self-driving,’ experts worry Tesla is ‘using consumers as guinea pigs’

A decal advertising Tesla Motors Inc.'s Autopilot feature sits on a window of their showroom at a dealership, on Oxford Street in London, U.K., on Wednesday, Dec. 16, 2015. After losing $1.88 billion since 2007, Tesla is piling on the personnel as it offers more models, builds the worlds biggest battery factory and expands globally, including stores opening in Mexico City and Edinburgh.

The Center for Auto Safety is the nation’s premier independent, member driven, non-profit consumer advocacy organization dedicated to improving vehicle safety, quality, and fuel economy on behalf of all drivers, passengers, and pedestrians.

Tesla’s cars will in August suddenly activate “full self-driving features,” the company’s chief executive Elon Musk tweeted on Sunday, three days after federal investigators said a Tesla SUV driving semi-autonomously had accelerated over 70 mph and smashed into a highway barrier.

Musk’s promotion to his millions of followers — that the fantastic future of self-driving cars might only be a few months away — appeared to give the company a leg-up in the auto industry’s most competitive technological race. Tesla’s stock price jumped Monday by more than 4.5 percent.

A Tesla spokesperson on Monday said the cars would only start offering a limited number of as-yet-undisclosed features, not full autonomy itself. But safety experts worried the grand promises of full self-driving capabilities could lull drivers into a false sense of security for technologies that are still largely unproven on the road.

Consumer groups argue Tesla’s marketing — and even the name “Autopilot,” which calls to mind a free-flying jet — contributes to a dangerous misunderstanding for drivers, suggesting they can take their hands off the steering wheel.

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