Tesla informed owners on Sunday that it is updating the Autopilot driving feature in its Model S sedans by limiting its hands-free operation after seeing misuse of the feature. This feature has received mixed responses so far. On one hand, it has won praises for its innovation, but on the other, it had to face criticisms for being launched too early.
Restrictions to stop “crazy things”
Tesla has restricted the speed to the speed limit plus five miles (8 km) per hour. Tesla CEO Elon Musk said the update also enabled the car to reduce its speed in anticipation of curves on the highway and added that he is not aware of any accidents taking place because of the earlier version of the software.
When launching the Autopilot feature in October, Musk did warn drivers that the hotly anticipated function was in beta, which means it was in a test phase, and that full “hands-off” driving was never recommended.
Tesla drivers posted videos on YouTube showing how they came close to having accidents while running the vehicle on Autopilot mode. This forced Musk to curb the function to minimize the possibility of people misusing the feature for doing “crazy things” on the road.
Tesla Autopilot system not liked by all
The U.S.-based electric car maker’s software allowed it to add the hands-free functionality and also corrects any glitches with a software update, but critics suggest that the company should have first made sure that Autopilot is perfect before releasing it to customers. At CES last week, Mark Reuss, the head of GM’s global product development, said that his company is strictly against the idea of using over-the air upgrades in safety-critical systems like steering and braking.
The announcement with regards to the Autopilot upgrade from Tesla comes a day before the start of Detroit’s North American International Auto Show. Traditional carmakers launched new models at the event, but they still lag Tesla when it comes to unveiling semi-autonomous technology.
Tesla is among the first companies to offer hands-free operation of the steering, taking the first steps to full self-driving. Industry experts believe that by 2020, the company will make full self-driving available. Musk said in an earlier interview that its Autopilot system was “probably better than human at this point in highway driving” since it had the ability to keep to its lane making use of cameras, radar and mapping.