In a move that should be a surprise to practically no one, Tesla is going to be placing restrictions (presumably by software update) on the autopilot function to stop drivers from using the feature in “unsafe” ways, according to CEO Elon Musk.
Given that the potential had been there (however unlikely it was) that the autopilot would be pulled in its entirety — owing to some of the crazier YouTube videos out there, amongst other things — I can say I’m actually quite happy with the decision. There certainly seem to be some bozos out there, so limiting the feature so that it can only be used in situations like those that it was designed to be used in is probably quite a good thing.
The comments from Musk came during last night’s Tesla Motors quarterly conference call, which saw Musk also note that preliminary data seems to show that the Autopilot features have actually prevented quite a number of accidents so far — and, maybe more importantly, that it hasn’t caused any accidents so far (as far as the company knows).
Here’s a transcription of the comments in question coming to us via “Robbo” on the Tesla Motors Club forum:
From the call:
“Almost a million a day of cars that are — have Autopilot hardware. So, I mean, but the early data, this is early data, emphasize, is that it’s very positive. So we’re aware of many accidents that were prevented from Autopilot and we’re not aware of any that were caused by Autopilot. That’s — but this is still — this is still early and — but it’s a good indication. So it appears to be quite beneficial from a safety standpoint and I believe some of our customers have posted videos to this respect.
But I do want to emphasize we’ve discouraged — there are fairly crazy videos on YouTube, we are — this is not good. And we will be putting some additional constraints on when Autopilot can be activated to minimize the possibility of people doing crazy things with it.”
Overall, that was pretty much my read on where the situation was headed — some restrictions are needed, but overall the feature seems to be a huge positive. As something of a skeptic on many aspects of technological progress, even I’ve got to wonder how anyone would doubt that computers could drive better than people (in many environments/regions anyways). People are terrible drivers.