Elon Musk’s Tesla introduced its new autopilot system in the Model S sedan this month and videos around the Internet are showing just how good it is.
YouTube videos show the potential dangers of the Tesla system
Once you enter a Model S sedan equipped with the autopilot system drivers are immediately able to activate the autopilot. When this is done on the big screen a warning immediately pops of for the driver telling them to continue driving like they normally would but that the system would engage itself and help you help yourself.
This warning, however, has not been heeded by a number of people who have then gone on to abuse the self-driving system and film. Austin Meyer, a 46-year-old South Carolina Tesla owner and creator of two videos of the Autopilot system, is one of these drivers.
One of his videos show him reading a newspaper in front of his face completely obscuring his ability to drive but not the autopilot’s abilities to drive itself. It should be noted that Mr. Meyer conducted this experiment on a private road with a passenger watching the road.
Meyer’s reaction following his stunt
“Do not think for a moment you can take your eyes off the road,” he said in an interview. “The most important point we can make right now is that for short-term safety people should assume they are using experimental, beta software.”
“It feels a little like the Wild West to some degree because Tesla is releasing an autopilot before it’s bullet- proof. But to me this is absolutely wonderful because it lets us see where the technology is going,” he added.
Other drivers have gone even further by climbing into the backseat of the automobile. That, however, is only possible for a small period of time as Tesla has installed a “check-in” feature that means that drivers must have their hands on the wheel a few times each minute making it a “hands on” system.
Others sound off on Tesla’s autopilot system
“Tesla owners need to stop operating their autopilot systems in conditions that it was not designed for; it’s not a toy,” says Massachusetts Institute of Technology robotics expert John Leonard. “Failure to use good judgment and common sense jeopardizes not only their own lives but the lives of others. Filming themselves while operating the Autopilot is extremely reckless.”
Elon Musk, founder and CEO of Tesla, hopes that the autopilot system will get about 1.5 million miles of use each day and will help improve the system which will constantly be upgraded as it acquires more data. Presently the hardware/software bundle is coming stock in new Model S sedans but can also be installed on older models for $2,500.
Others at Tesla have explained why the system was released now and not after more testing.
“We’ve been very clear with our customers what the intention of these features are, and we trust our customers and we expect them to be responsible,” said Khobi Brooklyn, Tesla’s director of communications.
“Why do it now instead of waiting until regulations are fully in place?” CBS reporter John Blackstone recently asked Brooklyn after testing out the system.
“I think Tesla is one of those companies that we’re pushing that technology forward and we’re showing the world what is possible,” she responded.
“If there’s unfortunately an accident, the driver is in control of the car,” Brooklyn said later in the interview.
Governmental regulators including the U.S. Department of Transportation and California’s Department of Motor Vehicles are keeping their eyes open regarding the launch but, quite frankly, Tesla is breaking no regulations nor laws but just giving drivers a safety net.