Autopilot Still Under Fire

The fatal crash that took place in May involving a driver who had their Tesla Model S in Autopilot mode which caused the crash is still a concern and an prime example of why we need to pay attention when driving. Even though we’ve discussed and heard about the disclaimers and the need to stay alert even when the vehicle is in command of the controls we should discuss the feelings inside Tesla regarding this system which is the most advanced from of semi-autonomous driving on the market today.

While it’s been tough enough for Tesla to defend their Autopilot system it’s not made any easier when former employees give statements telling us they warned about the systems and about the was technology was forced into the Model S through the use of over the air updates which brought us the updates to the system to offer at least semi-autonomous driving in the vehicles. Some former employees of Tesla sated the motto of the team was “not to let the perfect be the enemy of better” and that CEO Elon Musk continually expressed a desire to not allow concerns slow down the progress of the company.

While some former engineers have stated they were scared to death of what this system would be able to do and showed concerns that someone might be killed in a crash when they trust the Autopilot system the reality is this system has been advertised as semi-autonomous in nature and not one that allows the driver to fall asleep or watch a movie while the car is controlling the driving. Originally, the system was to be offered as a fully autonomous driving system with the ability to stream movies or shows on the screen in the car when the Autopilot was in control, but Musk was eventually talked out of this feature.

Some testing did take place in order to ensure the Autopilot system would work properly and provide the driving experience many Tesla owners want to enjoy, but if you listen to many of the former employees they feel it wasn’t enough. The fact that Tesla continue to advance automotive technology faster than any other company would be a huge concern if this were Toyota or Mercedes, but Tesla is far from being a volume automaker in the industry even though that’s the next goal for the company with their new Model 3.

Are these concerns valid from the former employees of the company or is this a case of disgruntled former employees who were dismissed prematurely? This could be a combination of the two. If we first look at the fatal crash from May, there are inconsistencies in the report with some reports claiming the driver was watching a movie on a portable screen at the time. This would indicate a distracted driver who should have taken over the controls of the vehicle in order to make the necessary adjustments where the Tesla Model S sensors were unable to detect the rear of the tractor trailer in front of the vehicle.

Because many people don’t follow the guidelines put in place with technology it may be too early for Autopilot or any other system that’s this advanced to be offered to the public. Consider the number of people you see on a daily basis who are driving while on their phone, eating, texting or drinking. All of these activities are considered distractions to the driver and shouldn’t be partaken while driving, but a number of us are guilty of them on a daily or weekly basis as we feel confident in our own driving abilities, not to mention the abilities of a car with advancements such as the Tesla Autopilot system.

Overall, the concerns of the Tesla employees, both current and past, are valid, but we need to have the technological steps forward that Tesla has provided in order to continue to develop this technology and eventually have cars that are fully autonomous in nature. Any fatalities are tragic, but the simple reality is the driver should have taken over control of the vehicle and been alert to the surrounding and driving of the car; had he done so he probably would still be able to enjoy driving his Model S today.

08.18.16 - 2016 Tesla Model S

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