Tesla’s Autopilot woes cause bad buzz 

Christien PhebyContent Manager
April 29, 2021, 1:47 PM UTC

A recent accident involving Tesla’s (partially self-driving) Autopilot system has raised questions about the dangers associated with autonomous cars – and put the brand at the heart of a media controversy.  Between April 18 (a day before the story broke) and April 26, Attention scores – which report whether respondents have heard anything about a brand in the past two weeks – rose from 20 to 29.4 (+9.4). Evidence indicates that this was substantially influenced by negative press surrounding the story: Buzz scores, which measure whether consumers have heard anything positive or negative about a brand, declined from 9.8 to -2.6 (-12.4). Furthermore, consumers appear to have been talking about the brand in greater numbers: Word of Mouth scores, which track whether consumers have spoken about a brand with friends or family in the past two weeks, rose from 12.1 to 16.2 between April 18-26.  

The story has cut through with the American public – and diminished perception of Tesla’s overall brand. Though it does not appear to have put more than a tiny dent in the brand’s Reputation scores (which measures whether consumers would be proud or embarrassed to work for a brand), which diminished only slightly from 18.6 to 17.9 (-0.7), Impression – which track positive or negative sentiment towards a brand – fell from 14.2 to 8.8 (-5.4).  

Self-driving cars have been a topical, and increasingly controversial area of discussion in the automotive industry over the past few years: while the potential of the technology is acknowledged, the accidents highlight the potential human cost of getting quasi-autonomous vehicles on the road.   

Uber and Lyft have sold their self-driving divisions over the past year, and Americans are still uncomfortable with the idea of autonomous cars whether they’re pedestrians, passengers, or fellow drivers.  

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