Germany urges Tesla owners to use extreme caution with Autopilot

The country is sending letters to owners, telling them Autopilot requires constant attention.

Reuters/Arnd Wiegmann

Tesla's "Autopilot" feature (a driver assistance tool rather than something that truly lets the car drive itself) has come under fire in recent months. Earlier this year, a car using Autopilot was involved in a fatal accident, causing a host of investigations into the safety of Tesla's feature. Among the institutions concerned with the feature is the country of Germany -- last week, Germany's transportation ministry said the Model S Autopilot was a "considerable traffic hazard." Now, Reuters reports that the country is reaching out directly to Tesla drivers, asking them to use caution.

The letter sent out reminds owners that Autopilot is strictly a driver assistance feature and still requires the driver's full, undivided attention. That's how Tesla says it describes the feature, but there's concern that drivers aren't staying completely alert while using Autopilot.

The fatal crash, which took place in May, isn't the only Autopilot-related incident -- a second, non-fatal accident took place in July, but it's not clear yet that Autopilot was at fault. Another crash took place in China in August, and the cumulative effect of these incidents has led to questioning on how exactly the company messages Autopilot to its customers. Indeed, the name itself makes it sound as if the car can drive itself -- but that is definitively not the case.