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Self-driving cars are the future and Tesla is charging ahead. But should beta-grade features really be allowed on public roads?
This California-based upstart’s Autopilot system is unquestionably a remarkable piece of tech. Comprised of multiple systems including Autosteer, Auto Lane Change and Autopark, it’s one of the most advanced suites of its kind available today, though it’s not perfect.
Several high-profile crashes have been blamed on Autopilot (although Tesla has denied that Autopilot had anything to do with many of these crashes), including one fatal incident in Florida and another in China. In my opinion, putting unfinished technology on the open market, especially when it’s this ambitious, is an open invitation for bad behavior.
YouTube has no shortage of videos showing Tesla owners doing all sorts of inane things while their vehicles drive themselves like sleeping, having laser-sword fights, playing Pokemon, and even sitting in the passenger seat.
Covering its behind, the company does warn drivers to stay alert at all times. From its website: “Tesla requires drivers to remain engaged and aware when Autosteer is enabled. Drivers must keep their hands on the steering wheel.” It also says it’s designed for highway use only.
Autonomous tech is arguably the automotive industry’s next big leap. Supplier firm Continental has been working on it for years, Cadillac is putting the finishing touches on its Super Cruise system, which is set to launch on CT6 sometime next year and even Freightliner is testing self-driving trucks. But that’s the critical difference. Rival systems are still in development, not on the market in beta form.
In Tesla’s defense, it claims Autopilot had logged more than 130 million miles before any fatality occurred, and many of the crashes were due to user error. For a little perspective, according to NHTSA, an estimated 35,200 people died on America’s roads last year out of some 3 trillion-odd vehicle-miles traveled. That works out to one fatality for roughly every 85 million miles if you’re keeping score, meaning Tesla’s tech has an advantage over the general driving populace.
But still, should a system like Tesla Autopilot, one that’s still in development really be used on public highways? For my complete opinion, make sure to watch the video above.
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