Tesla Motors Inc. is working with suppliers Bosch GmbH and Mobileye NV to refine its Autopilot technology, which has come under fire in recent weeks following a fatal accident that occurred while it was in use.
Tesla CEO Elon Musk said in a Sunday Twitter post that he had a “promising call” with Bosch, which supplies radar for the semiautonomous Autopilot feature. He said “significant improvements” to the system could be possible via an over-the-air software update.
He also thanked Israeli company Mobileye, which supplies technology used in the Autopilot system, and Bosch for their “help and support in making Autopilot better” and said criticism of the system should be directed at Tesla, not the suppliers.
The Palo Alto, Calif., automaker has come under scrutiny after it was revealed that Joshua Brown was killed May 7 after his Model S, in Autopilot mode, crashed into a tractor trailer on a Florida highway.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, in a letter made public last week, said it is investigating the incident, asking the automaker for details on the design and testing of the Autopilot system. The incident also has drawn an investigation from the National Transportation Safety Board, and a U.S. Senate committee has asked Tesla to brief it on the accident.
Since releasing the Autopilot feature last year, Tesla has said it should be utilized solely as a driver aid in certain conditions, saying the driver should remain in control of the car and stay alert at all times.
“Tesla Autopilot functions like the systems that airplane pilots use when conditions are clear,” the company said Thursday. “The driver is still responsible for, and ultimately in control of, the car.”
Some consumer advocates say Tesla has not gone far enough in educating users about the feature. Consumer Reports magazine last week called on Tesla to disable the feature until updating it to require that drivers keep their hands on the steering wheel, while also calling the Autopilot name “potentially dangerous” and misleading.
Musk told The Wall Street Journal last week that the company has no plans to disable Autopilot, though it is looking to educate drivers on its proper use and is working to update the system.
“A lot of people don’t understand what it is and how you can turn it on,” Musk said, according to The Journal.
Musk said Sunday on Twitter that a “recent poll” of Tesla customers showed zero percent of them want Autopilot disabled.
“Tesla customers are v smart & don’t want media speaking on their behalf abt Autopilot,” he wrote.
Reuters contributed to this report.