Consumer Reports believes that autonomous vehicle technology has the potential to improve driver safety. But we also have serious concerns about the way certain semi-autonomous systems, some of which allow a car to steer for itself, are currently being designed, deployed, and marketed. We think automakers need to clearly communicate the capabilities—and the limitations—of these systems.

Because this is a new and rapidly evolving technology, little data exists on the safety or benefits of these systems, so we currently don’t factor them into our ratings criteria. Our ratings and recommendations are based on a performance assessment from Consumer Reports track evaluations of how well a car drives (i.e., braking, handling, fuel economy) and reliability scores from our Annual Auto Survey, as well as safety evaluations and external crash tests.

But we do monitor these types of emerging technologies closely. Many automakers have promoted semi-autonomous systems as a safety feature to help with driver distraction and fatigue, but drivers are supposed to remain engaged with the driving process at all times. Some companies, such as Tesla and Mercedes-Benz, have used names such as Autopilot and Drive Pilot, which can give the false and dangerous impression that these cars are more capable than they really are. Several of these systems also allow you to take your hands off the wheel. Consumer Reports believes that as long as these systems require driver engagement, they should also require the driver to keep his or her hands on the wheel.

Several of the vehicles in these reliability charts offer semi-autonomous features. They include Tesla's Model S, whose reliability improved enough to qualify for recommended status under our criteria, as well as certain vehicles from BMW, Mercedes-Benz, and Volvo.

We will continue to monitor the evolution of self-driving technology and evaluate whether to make future adjustments to our ratings.

Editor's Note: This article also appeared in the December 2016 issue of Consumer Reports magazine.