A sign bearing the company logo is displayed outside a Tesla store in Cherry Creek Mall in Denver Image Credit: AP

New York: Tesla Inc. should rebrand the driver-assistance technologies it markets as Autopilot and take additional steps to ensure drivers pay attention to the road while using the system, Senator Edward Markey said.

“Autopilot is a flawed system, but I believe its dangers can be overcome,” Markey, a Massachusetts Democrat, said in emailed statement on Friday.

Markey said the term “autopilot” creates confusion about the limits of the system, undermining user manuals and instructions which stress that drivers must remain in control of their car. Rebranding would reduce that confusion, he added.

The senator also called for an additional monitoring system to ensure drivers pay attention while using Tesla’s Autopilot. The recommendations followed a review of the system by Markey’s office.

In a five-page letter to Markey dated December 20, Tesla said internal data show drivers crash less frequently while using Autopilot compared to driving without it.

“Since we began publishing this information in 2018, the improvement has ranged from about 60 per cent to 80 per cent fewer crashes per mile driven with Autopilot engaged,” Tesla wrote. “Our customers are safer using Autopilot than not using Autopilot.”

Markey is a member of the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee. He and Senator Richard Blumenthal, Democrat of Connecticut, first wrote to Tesla in May 2018 with questions about autonomous vehicle technology.

Tesla shares closed down 1.3% on Friday at $564.82 in a broad market sell-off and are up 35% for 2020 to date.