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Will Tesla End Up Pulling The Autopilot Function Due To Owner Misuse?

I’m sure that many of our readers have by now seen some of the videos posted to YouTube and elsewhere showing some Tesla owners being perhaps a bit careless in their use of the new autopilot function. Going by these videos, does it seem too much of a stretch to say that someone will eventually cause a bad accident this way costing people their lives?

Would Tesla be willing to pull the Autopilot function (probably just temporarily) in such a situation? Interesting questions, especially considering CEO Elon Musk’s stated goal to introduce fully autonomous cars to the market within the near future.

Tesla Model S Blue

Commenter “ar4c” set off this line of thought in my head with a recent posting on the Tesla Motors Club forums, stating that:

Due to the videos I am witnessing online, I truly feel there will be an AutoPilot/AutoSteer related vehicle crash soon. This is because people simply cannot follow directions, and it affects the safety of not only themselves- but everyone on the road. There is even a video of a complete fool filming from the back seat.

I feel regulators will force Tesla to pull the feature until it can be modified/improved to the point it requires hands-on only operation, and more bugs are worked out. I also think it should use GPS to disable AutoSteer unless its on a known freeway or highway, and not on surface streets. Think about the other idiot who was driving on a 1 lane road and AutoSteer almost killed him and the passengers in the other lane. This is like handing a loading weapon to Simple Jack from Tropic Thunder. Too many idiots are going to mess this up for all of us. My prediction, enjoy the AutoSteer function- because its not going to last.

Also, AutoPark sucks and doesn’t work 99% of the time. Just throwing that in there too.

Some interesting points to consider, though I remain unconvinced myself. Unsurprisingly, many of the other forum members didn’t agree, and offered rebuttals. Here are a few:

“Bmw_b” commented:

How many years since we got Cruise Control in millions of cars which have no sensors whatsoever to detect whether we are fast approaching the car in front of us. It is the driver who must keep an eye and put the foot on the breaks otherwise the car would simply crash into the car ahead. I bought my Mercedes Coupe in 2013. It has has cruise control just like the Merc of 2009 and the one of 2005 and the Jag of 2001 and I believe it started at least as early as the 80s.

Autopilot is a smarter cruise control with detectors. It will break when approaching a slower car and it tries to keep the lane it is driving in. B-t-w a feature you can order in newer Benz for a few years. It is called adaptive cruise control and when you move out of your lane the steering wheel starts to vibrate to alert the driver unless you had activated the indicator. So people just relax, Tesla is neither the first (they just made it a tiny bit smarter), nor they only one. You are already surrounded by millions of cars which do pretty much the same or worse … cruise control with NO sensors.

That’s pretty much my personal take on it as well.

“AIMc” commented on the autopark feature:

As to autopark: I have used it literally 8x….no issues. Parks in a space I would probably not try on my own.

A point reiterated by many of the other commentators as well.

And, finally, “Bill r” noted:

Tried autopilot from Seattle to park city. Had a problem while driving in the right hand lane. Auto stearing wanted to vear towards the exit road. It took a tight grip on the stearing wheel. This problem needs to be addressed..

Hmm. That’s certainly a potentially dangerous issue there. Given that the system is quite new it isn’t surprising though — though presumably Tesla will be able to fix the issue… Comments?

Written By

James Ayre's background is predominantly in geopolitics and history, but he has an obsessive interest in pretty much everything. After an early life spent in the Imperial Free City of Dortmund, James followed the river Ruhr to Cofbuokheim, where he attended the University of Astnide. And where he also briefly considered entering the coal mining business. He currently writes for a living, on a broad variety of subjects, ranging from science, to politics, to military history, to renewable energy. You can follow his work on Google+.


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