When Will We Learn

04.14.17 - Tesla Autopilot

While the dependence upon electronics to drive us down the road and be able to read all of the lane and road markings is still a few years off, too often we discuss a driver that’s chosen to rely solely on the automation offered inside a vehicle to make sure they can stay safe on the roadways. Even though we are our own worst enemies on the road with our coffee, driver through lunches, makeup applications and even cell phone usage from behind the wheel, there is a responsibility we still have on the road when it comes to driving.

The Tesla Autopilot system has been given a bad rap over the past few years because of the crashes that some drivers have blamed on the system, but the reality is, this system isn’t an autonomous system at all. In fact, it’s never been advertised as an autonomous system and the company has even taken strides to dial back the Autopilot to be less automated so that driver’s will stay alert and won’t act as if this is how they’re going to drive and never have to put their hands on the wheel, their foot on the pedals or their eyes on the road.

In a recent collision the driver of the Tesla Model S blames the Autopilot system for misreading the road marking because the car collided into a barrier side first. This action deployed the airbags in the car and caused quite a bit of damage, but the result of this crash should hopefully serve as a wakeup call to the driver of the Tesla to pay attention and see what’s going on around the vehicle when behind the wheel, which is unfortunately been where many Tesla owners have faltered over the past couple years.

The video below was taken via dashboard mounted camera from the vehicle behind the Tesla and you can clearly see the transition from a regular driving lane to a construction zone, which meant the road markers disappeared under the concrete barrier that was in place at the beginning of the construction zone. This is a difference in the road markings that a human driver should be able to pick up on, but not one that the systems of our vehicles that are built today are capable of discerning and certainly one of the main reasons it’s important for drivers to continue to pay attention on the road.

While others have seen this video and speculated what may have failed in the car with the possibilities being the forward collision warning system or the automatic emergency braking system the reality is the failure in this case was the driver. It’s not hard to understand that you need to stay alert while driving no matter how good the system of semi-autonomous driving is for your car. No manufacturer has offered a publicly sold vehicle that’s fully autonomous to date and Uber has only begun testing some of their vehicles in some cities with mixed results.

It may be an expensive lesson for the driver of the Tesla to learn they need to stay alert while on the road, but it’s an important lesson that you simply can’t argue with at all. Until fully autonomous vehicles are approved for use by consumers as their own private vehicles the reliance on automation for the drive has to end. People need to stay alert when behind the wheel of any vehicle and make sure they see what’s coming because the system that’s been programmed into the car has limitations that you don’t want to experience when you put your life in the hands of a car and its automated systems.

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