Tesla Autopilot safety defeat device gets a cease-and-desist from NHTSA

Autopilot Buddy overrides built-in safety features

Autopilot Buddy is $199 " Tesla Autopilot nag reduction device." Basically, it's a magnetic ring that clips onto a Tesla's steering wheel and defeats the system that monitors when a driver's hands are on the wheel. It works by adding a bit of pressure and torque to the wheel to trick the car and bypass a safety feature. Today, NHTSA issued the company behind Autopilot Buddy a formal cease and desist and issued a consumer advisory deeming the product unsafe.

In the advisory, NHTSA says, "By preventing the safety system from warning the driver to return their hands to the wheel, this product disables an important safeguard, and could put customers and other road users at risk." Aftermarket devices like Autopilot Buddy are regulated by NHTSA. The company has until June 29 to respond and certify to NHTSA that all U.S. marketing, sales and distribution of the Autopilot Buddy has ended. In a statement to Autoblog, Tesla said simply, "We support NHTSA's action regarding this product."

Currently, the Autopilot Buddy website isn't taking orders inside the U.S., though international orders are still open. Along with the order links, the site is full of disclaimers like, "Autopilot Buddy is for Track Use Only," "Autopilot Budy is not a safety device," and — most notably — "Disabling key safety feature of any car is dangerous and ill-advised." The device is intended to restore the function of Autosteer, a sub-function of Autopilot that has been restricted by Tesla since it was originally released.

Bypassing or disabling safety features is nothing new, but there's a world of difference between not wearing a seatbelt and using a device that means you can keep your hands off the wheel for an extended period of time. Systems like Autopilot still require a driver to be fully aware and engaged, and — no matter how many warnings or disclaimers Autopilot Buddy may issue — devices like this encourage dangerous behavior.

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