Is it safe to drive the Tesla Model S car on autopilot?
This question seems to be on the minds of drivers, industry experts and government regulators, as they now debate on the safety, practicality and legality of using the autopilot feature installed on four-wheel vehicles, according to Wired .
Only a few days ago, a Model S crossed the country not only in record time for an electric powered vehicle (EV), and more amazingly, drove itself nearly the entire way.
Carl Reese, who was among the car’s three passengers – and part-time drivers – said that the vehicle was engaged on autopilot about 96 percent of the time and ran at speeds of about 90 MPH.
Reese said that having autopilot eased the burden on the team, especially when driving a car for 57 hours straight.
Tesla Motors introduced the “Autopilot” car drive feature on Oct. 14 through an over the air software update which has made its recent Model S sedans and all Model X SUVs semi-autonomous.
The system, which has already been installed in tens of thousands of vehicles, uses radar, cameras, GPS, and ultrasonic sensors to keep the car within its lane, maintain a safe following distance, and change lanes at the command of its driver.
CEO Elon Musk, however, urged drivers to be prudent when engaging the Autopilot mode.
“We tell drivers to keep their hands on the wheel just in case, to exercise caution in the beginning,” Musk said.
But despite the Tesla chief executive’s assurances of the autopilot feature’s safety, videos which have been uploaded online showing the self-driving cars being involved in near-fatal accidentals, according to BBC .
In one of the videos, a Tesla car is shown swerving off the road as it was exiting the Motorway in Portland, USA.
Another clip shows a Model S swerving towards an incoming vehicle.
Tesla released the autopilot update with a reminder that the feature was only suitable for motorway driving and was still in test mode.
The two videos showing the cars swerving happened away from the designated motorway lanes.
“The software is very new. We’re being especially cautious at this early stage, so we’re advising drivers to keep their hands on the wheel just in case,” Musk said in statement during the update’s release.
Tesla Model S car owners may just have to learn to drive more carefully as they get accustomed to their vehicle’s autopilot feature.