The German Government Doesn’t Like Tesla’s AutoPilot System
Is the world fighting change or is everyone being too critical of Tesla’s innovations?by Robert Moore, on
Tesla’s AutoPilot system, which is promoted as the best semi-autonomous system in the world, has been under fire ever since that fatal accident back in July of 2016. Since then, it seems like it’s been nothing but trouble for Tesla. German safety regulators were already criticizing the system after Musk described it as being in the “Beta” phase, and now, the German Transport Ministry has called Tesla’s AutoPilot system a “considerable traffic hazard” in a recent report obtained by German Magazine Der Spiegel.
Things that have raised the interest of the German Transport Ministry include the system not alerting drivers when there is a situation the software can’t handle or fully recognize, as well as issues with the automatic emergency braking. The Transport Ministry later reported to Reuters that the results are part of a much larger evaluation of the system, and the full report has yet to be finished as there are other tests that are being conducted.
The results so far aren’t really that surprising, as the system has been under increasing scrutiny following a number of accidents. Just recently, Tesla quit using the term “AutoPilot” on its Chinese website, as it insinuated to users that the car was “self-driving” and gave them a false sense of the system’s capabilities. California has also recently announced its interest in banning the term for the same reason. Just recently the system received a major update that included more safety features, one of which would disable the autopilot system if the driver ignored alerts to keep his hands on the wheel.
The next big move for Tesla is to integrate “AutoPilot 2.0,” which is said to bring even more Autonomous capabilities to Tesla vehicles. The system will include more radar units and three new forward-facing cameras. So far, no time frame has been announced, but newly produced Model S and Model X vehicles already have the hardware mounting locations for the new technology, indicating that a retrofit to previously purchased models will be possible. Tesla has just announced that a new “unexpected” announcement will take place on October 17.
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Why it Matters
The biggest problem with Tesla’s AutoPilot system is that it is still in the “Beta” testing phase, but Tesla felt it appropriate to supply the masses with the technology anyway. While this isn’t unheard of – software developers do it all the time to give consumers an early look and to hear their opinions – one could argue that lives are on the line whenever the system is in use. On top of that, the word “AutoPilot” has been associated with aircraft for some time and, despite the fact that the pilot is still heavily involved in flying the plane, the general consensus is that the plane is flying itself. That common, but incorrect belief is ultimately what has triggered the name change on Tesla’s Chinese website after at least one owner was “confused” over the terminology and why California is ready to ban the use of the term as well.
At this point, it’s hard to say how this is really going to turn out for Tesla. After the recent slurry of accidents that Tesla was blamed for, only a couple of which have been found to be the fault of Tesla’s AutoPilot system in any way. People sure do like to place the blame on others for their mistakes, don’t they? Recently, it was announced that the first fatal crash in a Tesla with AutoPilot actually happened far earlier in 2016, but that report came to light and has faded away just as quickly. The most recent safety enhancements like AutoSteer disabling when alerts are ignored was a big step, but the system still needs a lot of work. It’s been noted on multiple occasions that AutoPilot will break the speed limit if you set maximum speed high enough – this in itself should be a big no-no for a system that is still in “Beta.” Either way, Tesla is still trucking along in its efforts to develop Level 3 and Level 4 autonomy despite the general public’s desire to avoid entering a new evolution of mobility so quickly.
Read our full review on the 2016 Tesla Model X here.
Read our full review on the 2017 Tesla Model S here.
Read our full review on the 2018 Tesla Model 3 here.
Source: Der Spiegel