Sorry Elon, Telsa autopilot release was reckless

On October 14, 2015, Tesla released version 7.0 of its software with the exciting announcement: Your Autopilot Has Arrived:

Autopilot allows Model S to steer within a lane, change lanes with the simple tap of a turn signal, and manage speed by using active, traffic-aware cruise control. Digital control of motors, brakes, and steering helps avoid collisions from the front and sides, as well as preventing the car from wandering off the road.

Woohoo! Suddenly, thousands of Model S owners had access to Autosteer Beta with a simple over-the-air upgrade. Just like that, thousands of semi-autonomous vehicles were released into the wild. That is, thousands of cars that can leave a Dodge Viper eating dust could now be driving themselves around public roads. Legislation, independent safety assessments, isolated trials — pa! — old school! — “fail quickly” is new mantra!

Of course, Tesla issued clear user instructions: “Tesla requires drivers to remain engaged and aware when Autosteer is enabled. Drivers must keep their hands on the steering wheel.”

Elon Musk stated, “We tell drivers to keep their hands on the wheel just in case, to exercise caution in the beginning. “Over time, long-term, you won’t have to keep your hands on the wheel — we explicitly describe this as beta.”

Job done. Warning issued. Obviously users will comply, in the same fashion that “You must be over 18 to enter site” notices protected millions of sensitive teenage eyes from viewing porn.

But wait. Some naughty users ignored the instructions and starting driving hands-free around public streets the very next day. Actually, lots of them did and posted their work on youtube. What could possibly go wrong?

Well, this:

And this:


Tesla Version 7.0 software release is reckless in the extreme. Too many things can wrong. It’s still Beta! What if a child runs onto the road while some idiot is reading a newspaper? Or if a driver is too slow to grab the wheel in order to avoid a collision? Or, or, or, or …

A high-performance car in the wrong hands is a deadly weapon. A high-performance car in no hands is reckless endangerment.

UPDATE: Sadly, the first death has now occurred: http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2016/07/01/business/inside-tesla-accident.html?smid=tw-nytimes&smtyp=cur&_r=0


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