Tesla rolled out its new autopilot mode to drivers earlier this week, which performs functions like changing lanes, following other cars and reacting to troubles on the way. Tesla warned that though these features are useful, control of the car still rests with the driver, and therefore, they should have their hands on the wheels.
Drivers ignoring Tesla’s warning
Drivers should make use of the Autopilot feature in a similar manner as they would use cruise control under normal circumstances, by keeping hands on the steering wheel and remaining alert of what’s happening ahead so as to avoid accidents.
Contrary to that, many are putting the feature to some ridiculous use. In a video, one driver is shown riding a Tesla at a high speed with hands off the steering wheel. He is seen engrossed in filming the ride so much so that he doesn’t even acknowledge the alarm that the car sounds for him to take control, after which it starts drifting to the left. The driver comes into action just in time to jerk the steering wheel in the opposite direction and save himself from a fatal accident.
After the release of the Autopilot mode, several such videos have surfaced online, in which drivers behave carelessly and misuse the feature. They try to show how cool the feature is by taking off their hands from the steering wheel, something that Tesla CEO Elon Musk advised not to do.
Whose fault is it?
The fault is not entirely of the drivers but that of Tesla as well. The company has marketed the feature as “autopilot,” when it should have been called “assistive technology” like competitors have marketed it, says a report from The Next Web. The company might need to restrict the feature sometime in the future or choose to change its marketing or provide drivers with some kind of tutorial so that they get to know how to use the feature safely and correctly.
Autopilot has some features that are designed to try to stop humans from making mistakes. For instance, if the driver does not have his hands on the steering wheel for a certain duration, then the car sounds an alert tone, but the warnings can be deactivated if the driver holds the steering wheel for just a few seconds.
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YouTube videos are coming in at a steady flow, and it can be predicted that there could soon be an instance when some driver meets a fatal accident or injuries someone else due to his misunderstanding of the capability.