Tesla to brief US Senate committee on Florida çrash

Tesla Motors, the electric auto manufacturer, is coming under huge scrutiny for the capabilities of its "Autopilot" self-driving system. But a spokeswoman told Reuters that, as of Thursday evening, she had not yet seen the letter.

The semi-autonomous feature is now been aggressively deployed in Tesla vehicles, which raises questions as to why the company has given a beta-phase feature in the hands of end users.

"Tesla is constantly introducing enhancements, proven over millions of miles of internal testing, to ensure that drivers supported by Autopilot remain safer than those operating without assistance", the company said in a statement.

Consumer Reports made the recommendations in the wake of an investigation from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and National Transportation Safety Board, which is looking into Tesla's Autopilot.

But such demands have been rebuffed by Tesla CEO Elon Musk who defended autopilot as safer than human driving. Mr. Musk tweeted, "Onboard vehicle logs show Autopilot was turned off in Pennsylvania crash. Moreover, crash would not have occurred if it was on".

Consumer Reports also wanted the Autopilot feature name changed to avoid giving a false sense of security about the car's ability to drive itself.

Laura MacCleery, the vice president of consumer policy and mobilization for the magazine, acknowledges the potential of self-driving systems to contribute to road safety.

The US May 7 deadly accident, in which a driver lost his life while he was cruising in his Model S with the Autopilot engaged, triggered a serious debate among automotive safety experts on whether such technology can be trusted. Additionally, the automaker's first fatal crash is also being inspected in other regulatory authorities around the world.

"It is essential to use lessons learned from this incident to improve safety technologies, ensure they perform as advertised, and make certain that consumers are properly educated about their use", Thune said in his letter. Also, it should be mentioned that Tesla's cars are the only ones that allow drivers to completely take their hands off the wheel for increased periods of time.

Tesla appears to be determined to keep the name unchanged for the system, which comes with a warning urging drivers to have their their hands on the wheel and eyes on the road at all times.

The autopilot can be deactivated through an over-the-air software update.

If Tesla were to heed the advice, it would surely mean redesigning the steering wheel to include sensors recognising when drivers are in contact.

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