Emergency personnel work a the scene where a Tesla electric SUV crashed into a barrier on U.S. Highway 101 in Mountain View, Calif. The test results by AAA released Thursday, Nov. 15, 2018, come after several highly publicized crashes involving Tesla vehicles that were operating on the company's system named "Autopilot." (Photo: KTUV via AP Photo) Emergency personnel work a the scenewhere a Tesla electric SUV crashed into a barrier on U.S. Highway101 in Mountain View, Calif. The test results by AAA releasedThursday, Nov. 15, 2018, come after several highly publicizedcrashes involving Tesla vehicles that were operating on thecompany's system named “Autopilot.” (Photo: KTUV via APPhoto)

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Automakers including Tesla Inc. are stoking confusion amongmotorists by choosing names for their automated-driving systems that wrongly suggestthey're more capable than is actually the case, according to theInsurance Institute for Highway Safety.

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Almost half of respondents to an IIHS survey considered it safeto drive with their hands off the steering wheel when using asystem called Autopilot, the nonprofit vehicle-safety advocate saidThursday. That's the name Tesla chose for its driver-assistancesystem that's been in use during several fatal crashes since2016.

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“Tesla's user manual says clearly that the Autopilot's steeringfunction is a 'hands-on feature,' but that message clearly hasn'treached everybody,” IIHS President David Harkey said ina statement. “Manufacturers should consider what messagethe names of their systems send to people.”

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Chief Executive Officer Elon Musk has billed Tesla as a leaderin autonomous driving, telling investors last month that thetechnology will be “transformative” and acatalyst for the company to eventually be worth a half-trilliondollars.

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But the day before Musk made that pitch to prospective buyers ofnew stock and debt, a Tesla Model 3 driver died when his sedanslammed into the side of a semi-truck that was crossing a highwayin Florida. A U.S. regulator revealed weeks later thatAutopilot was engaged at the time of thecollision, and the driver's hands weren't on the wheel for eightseconds prior to impact.

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Consumer Reports, which called for Tesla to drop thename Autopilot three years earlier following a similarfatal crash in Florida, said last month that the U.S. NationalHighway Traffic Safety Administration should open aninquiry to determine whether Autopilot is defective andposes unreasonable safety risk.

Survey says

In its survey, IIHS asked 2,000 drivers what maneuvers theyconsider to be safe while using driver-assist technologies, using namescompanies have given their systems. The nonprofit didn't tellparticipants in the survey the vehicle brands associated with eachname and weren't given information about the systems.

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Other names included in the survey wereNissan's ProPilot Assist, BMW's Driving Assistant Plus,Cadillac's Super Cruise and Audi's Traffic JamAssist.

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“Automakers need to take care when they name a system of notimplying that the driver can be out of the loop — that these aredriver-assistance systems, not driver-replacement systems,” Harkeysaid in a phone interview.

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