For more than a year, Tesla has defended its semiautonomous Autopilot as a vital, life-saving feature. CEO Elon Musk has lambasted journalists who write about crashes involving the system. "It's really incredibly irresponsible of any journalists with integrity to write an article that would lead people to believe that autonomy is less safe," he said during a tumultuous earnings call this week. "Because people might actually turn it off, and then die." This wasn't the first time Musk has made this argument about Autopilot, which keeps the car in its lane and a safe distance from other vehicles but requires constant human oversight, and has been involved in two fatal crashes in the US.
Tesla has been working on enhancing its Autopilot self-driving feature, and the upcoming update might make its cars even safer than human-driven vehicles. The update will cap the top speed to the preset speed limit when the vehicle's Autosteer function is used, TechCrunch reported citing sources. Autosteer is a Tesla feature that controls the wheel and maintains the car's lane. If speed limits could be imposed using the updated software, it would make vehicles less prone to accidents. A Purdue University study in 2008 found that most drivers on U.S. roads don't follow speed limits, which is one of the major causes of accidents.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has demanded that the company behind a gadget called the Autopilot Buddy stops selling the device in the US. The gizmo makes Tesla's Autopilot think a driver has their hands on the steering wheel, and stops the system from urging drivers to put them there. Autopilot only works when a driver's hands are in the correct place and apply some pressure. The Autopilot Buddy is marketed as a "Tesla Autopilot nag reduction device." It's a $199 magnetic, plastic gadget that clasps around the wheel and makes Autopilot thinks the driver's hands are in the correct spot.
NEW YORK /March 31, 2018 (AP)(STL.News)-- Tesla says the vehicle in a fatal California crash was operating on Autopilot, the latest accident to involve self-driving technology. The automaker says the driver, who was killed in the accident, did not have his hands on the steering wheel for six seconds before the crash. Tesla says its Autopilot feature, which can keep speed, change lanes and self-park, requires drivers to keep their eyes on the road and hands on the wheel to take control of the vehicle to avoid accidents. Earlier this month, a self-driving Volvo SUV being tested by ride-hailing service Uber struck and killed a pedestrian in Arizona. Tesla Inc., in a blog post, defended its Autopilot feature, saying that while it doesn't prevent all accidents, it makes them less likely to occur.
In light of recent crashes where Tesla said drivers didn't pay sufficient attention while on Autopilot, it's rolling out updates to address the problem. The first one, issued several days ago, nags drivers every 30 seconds to "hold steering wheel," instead at one to two minute intervals as before. However, drivers didn't get that just grabbing the wheel alone didn't stop the warnings. So, Elon Musk explained that Tesla will be "adjusting the screen alert to clarify that we mean'slight up or downward force on the wheel,' not really "hold the wheel." Will be adjusting screen alert to clarify that we mean "slight up or downward force on the wheel", not really "hold the wheel" Many drivers disliked the more frequent warnings, in part because they didn't know how to stop them.