Did Tesla confuse drivers about hands-free driving on Autopilot?


Tesla officially touts its biased self-driving Autopilot feature as a back-up to human drivers, but some of the car maker’s remark ons — and some high profile videos — have led many drivers to regard as of it as a replacement.

The questions of whether drivers are being lulled into a made-up sense of security by such technology, and who is legally to blame for an accident, entertain come into focus after it was made public on Thursday that a driver manoeuvring Autopilot died when he drove under a truck in May.

An investigation of the topple has not yet established if the driver was distracted, or if his hands were on the wheel.

Tesla Motors Inc Chief Number one Elon Musk told reporters last year that its predisposed to self-driving technology was “hands on.” When Autopilot is activated, the driver discovers a chime and sees an indication on the dashboard telling them to “please disallow your hands on the wheel. Be pre red to take over at any time.”


A Tesla Mould S involved in the fatal crash on May 7, 2016 is shown with the top third of the car sheared off by the smash of the collision of the Tesla with a tractor-trailer truck on nearby highway and charged to rest in the yard of Robert and Chrissy VanKavelaar in Williston, Florida. (Politesse Robert VanKavelaar/Handout via Reuters)

Last October, Musk ordered reporters: “We’re being especially cautious at this stage, so we’re advising drivers to detain their
hands on the wheel just in case.”

But by April, he told a convention that Autopilot was “almost twice as good as a person,” even in its to begin version.

It is the second message that appears to have registered with drivers. Induced by confidence in the system’s ability to self-steer and stay in its lane on highways, Tesla drivers possess posted YouTube videos of themselves driving hands-free – even from the aid seat.

One of them was Musk’s ex-wife, actress Talulah Riley, who in April was videotaped by a friend covering her eyes and dancing behind the wheel of her Tesla Fashion X, while the car’s Autopilot feature drove the ir on a crowded highway. The video was appointed on YouTube and has been viewed nearly 30,000 times. Riley was not convenient for comment.

Musk himself has retweeted news discharges showing drivers using Autopilot with no hands on the wheel.

Various messages

The potential for discre ncy in messages is a concern in the auto industry and beyond.

Brad Stertz, a spokesman for Germany’s Audi, determined Reuters in November that car makers must be “absolutely clear” what level off their technology was ca ble of handling, after the launch of Autopilot.

“L to Tesla for bringing out the system but you also need to be responsible and clear round what the technology is
ca ble of doing,” Stertz said.

The self-driving play up appears to have played a rt in the May fatality, in which a Model S driver advantaging Autopilot hit a truck on a Florida highway. A video disc player was organize in the car, police said.

In a statement, Tesla said that Autopilot “is by far the myriad advanced driver assistance system on the road, but it does not turn a Tesla into an autonomous mechanism and does not allow the driver to abdicate responsibility.”

Legally, Tesla may acquire a solid defense under Florida law, with safeguards, telling drivers they cannot yield control every time they engage Autopilot.

Tesla itself pealed back some features in January, including reducing the speed at which Autopilot can manipulate on residential streets.

If the system senses a driver is not ying attention, it elects visual and auditory warnings to place their hands on the wheel or receipts over immediately. The car can sense whether a driver has hands on the wheel.

Tesla Model S Changes

A Tesla ttern S 70D is seen during a test drive. Tesla rolled back some Autopilot plaice in January, including reducing the speed at which Autopilot can operate on residential lanes. (Carlos Osorio/Associated Press)

“It sounds like (Tesla) they did a absolutely good job of designing into the mechanism prompts and reminders about what the extent was, and for whatever reason, this guy was not ying attention,” said Lars Noah, a University of Florida law professor.

Peacefulness, several Tesla owners said Autopilot could drive for a sprinkling minutes before the system beeped to order hands onto the control wheel. “It only beeps if it gets confused,” said Bob Preger of Bow Village, Nevada.

Google’s different approach

Alphabet Inc’s Google component, which is also working on self-driving technology, is taking a different sound out, saying that asking drivers to y attention while the car drives itself is misuse. Google is focusing its efforts on fully autonomous vehicles where ones take no rt in driving, whereas Tesla believes it should not esteem back features to wait for the day full autonomy is perfected.

“Human drivers can’t forever be trusted to dip in and out of the task of driving when the car is encouraging them to sit back and moderate,” Chris Urmson, director of Google’s self-driving car program, told the Unanimous States Senate in March.

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