Tesla Responds to Senator's Criticism of Autopilot Feature

Tesla, responding to Sen. Markey's criticism of its Autopilot feature, says it has begun instituting features that will keep drivers alert while Autopilot is engaged.

Tesla  (TSLA) - Get Report is fighting back against an assertion by Sen. Edward Markey (D-Mass.) that its driver-assistance Autopilot setting is dangerous because its branding is “inherently misleading.” 

Tesla responded to the senator in a letter stating that it has taken steps to ensure that driver engagement is still active once Autopilot is engaged. 

Those steps include new warnings for red lights and stop signs.

Sen. Markey called for “rebranding and remarketing the system to reduce misuse, as well as building backup driver-monitoring tools that will ensure no one falls asleep at the wheel.”

Markey referred to media reports of Tesla drivers falling asleep while operating their vehicles with Autopilot engaged.

Tesla’s website states that current Autopilot features "require active driver supervision and do not make the vehicle autonomous.”

Tesla shares were lower Friday after analysts at JP Morgan and BNP Exane tapped the brakes on the stock’s ascent. 

In a pair of notes they took issue with the Palo Alto, Calif., electric-vehicle producer's current valuation and perception as a tech company, respectively.

Analysts at JP Morgan reiterated their December 2020 price target of $240 a share, compared with the stock’s current trading price above $560. 

That valuation is out of whack with JP Morgan’s analysis of the company. Tesla's recent push past $100 billion in market capitalization puts it past Volkswagen  (VWAGY)  and behind only Toyota  (TM) - Get Report as the world’s most valuable car company.

Meanwhile, BNP analyst Stuart Pearson downgraded Tesla to hold from buy while maintaining an overall optimistic view of the company. 

He says the idea that it is a tech company is overblown.

"Tesla remains uniquely well placed to capitalize on a 2020 boom in global [electric vehicle] demand," wrote Pearson.