You may have heard that by the power vested in Elon Musk, Tesla released an update providing all Tesla Model S vehicles built after September 2014 with ‘autopilot’. The idea is that the system can use white lane markings to navigate highways, change lanes for you and even search out parking spots and park itself. This combined with adaptive cruise control means that we are now getting our hands on the first real applications of autonomous vehicles.
However, this system has limitations which Tesla has made very clear. The company has described the technology as a ‘hands on the wheel’ technology, despite the fact that the system is perfectly happy driving you around hands-free. This absolves Tesla of any legal trouble in case an accident was to occur while the vehicle was steering itself.
Not surprisingly, just a day after the software update was unveiled this video was released. It depicts a man testing the new system, and the majority of the video is uneventful until around the 2:50 mark. At this point the driver attempts to get off the highway via an on ramp using autopilot, and when the car loses site of both white lines it veers off to the right requiring driver intervention. How, it should be mentioned that Autopilot was designed for highway cruising specifically, and on-ramps don’t count. There is a lesson to be learned here though. Autonomous cars are going to get increasingly popular as time goes on, and I’m sure they’ll become incredible. However, until then be weary, because after all you’re still driving a 5000lb automobile.