Consumer groups, 'Sully' Sullenberger raise concerns about Tesla's Autopilot and Full Self-Driving features

Two consumer advocacy groups on Thursday refiled a request with the Federal Trade Commission for it to investigate Tesla’s representation of its Autopilot driver aid system, calling it "misleading" and "deceptive."

The Center for Auto Safety and Consumer Watchdog submitted a letter to the FTC last year on the same topic, but a spokesperson for the latter said that they never received a response, so it is unclear if the agency has taken any action. An FTC spokesman told Fox News Autos that it could not publically comment on such requests. The groups also sent the updated letter to the Attorneys General California, New York, Florida, Michigan, Utah, and Massachusetts.

According to Tesla’s website, Autopilot “Enables your car to steer, accelerate and brake automatically for other vehicles and pedestrians within its lane.”

In the letter, the groups maintain that there have been several accidents linked to misuse of the feature since they last reached out to the FTC and cite a recent survey conducted by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) that found many car owners don’t fully understand the capabilities of their vehicle’s driver assist systems, including Tesla’s Autopilot.

Tesla would not comment on the groups’ requests to the FTC, but issued the following statement regarding the IIHS report:

“This survey is not representative of the perceptions of Tesla owners or people who have experience using Autopilot, and it would be inaccurate to suggest as much. If IIHS is opposed to the name 'Autopilot,' presumably they are equally opposed to the name 'Automobile.'" The statement added that the automaker provides owners with guidance on how to use the feature properly and that Autopilot deactivates if the vehicle determines the driver is no longer engaged.

On the same day that the groups announced their FTC request, safety expert Capt. Chesley "Sully" Sullenberger shared a Washington Post article about Tesla’s evolving “Full Self-Driving” feature on Twitter with the comment that it “should concern everyone who will share the same streets as a driver or pedestrian,” which prompted a debate on the topic in the tweet's comment stream.

Full Self-Driving is an option that currently enables a Tesla to change lanes, pass other cars and perform several other maneuvers with minimal driver interaction. However, the company advertises on its website that it will be able to recognize and respond to traffic lights and stop signs, and also provide “automatic driving on city streets” later this year. Tesla CEO Elon Musk has also said that its self-driving capabilities may be “feature complete” by the end of 2019 and that fully-autonomous operation without supervision could be possible as early as next year, regulations permitting.

Tesla would not comment on the tweet, while representatives for Sullenberger have not responded to a request for him to elaborate on his statement.