Tesla tweaks ‘Autopilot’ warnings after fatal crash, user complaints

Electric car maker Tesla is tweaking the “Autopilot” assisted driving feature in its vehicles amid concerns related to its role in multiple recent crashes, including a fatal accident in Mountain View, California.

The updated version of the feature “nags” drivers to place their hands on the steering wheel more frequently than it did in the old version. The update also warns drivers using from “Autopilot” if their vehicle travels at an excessive speed.

The changes were met with criticism from Tesla customers, some of whom argued that the “nags” occur too often and that simply grabbing the wheel was not enough to stop the alerts, Engadget reported.

Tesla CEO Elon Musk tweeted Wednesday that the company “will be adjusting screen alert to clarify that we mean ‘slight up or downward force on the wheel.’” Musk acknowledged one user’s criticism that the more frequent alerts dissuaded him using “Autopilot” at all.

“This is crux [sic] of matter: can’t make system too annoying or people won’t use it, negatively affecting safety, but also can’t allow people to get too complacent or safety again suffers,” Musk wrote in response. “Latest update should have a positive effect on the latter issue especially.”

The software update came days after the National Transportation Safety Board released the preliminary results of its investigation in the fatal crash of a Tesla Model X that had “Autopilot” engaged at the time of the accident. Safety officials said the driver, who died in the crash, did not have his hands on the steering wheel in the six seconds before impact, and noted that the car accelerated from 62 mph to 70.8 mph in the three seconds before impact.

Consumer Reports said the update represented an “incremental improvement” for Tesla “Autopilot” technology, adding that the feature now delivers a visual warning at 30 seconds without steering wheel contact and an audible warning at 45 seconds.

"We continuously update our vehicles based on data to provide the best and safest experience for drivers," a Tesla spokeswoman said in a statement.