Tesla’s “full self-driving” software does not make cars autonomous

Earlier this week, Tesla shipped its “fully self-driving” software to a small group of owners who will test it on public roads. However, a disclaimer is buried on its website that the $ 8,000 (approximately Rs 5.88,700) system does not make vehicles autonomous and drivers still need to monitor it.

The conflicting messages have experts in the field accusing Tesla of misleading, irresponsible marketing that could make the roads more dangerous as the system expands to include up to 1 million electric vehicle drivers by the end of the year.

“This is actively misleading people about the capabilities of the system based on the information I’ve seen about it,” said Steven Shladover, a research engineer at the University of California at Berkeley who has studied autonomous driving for 40 years. “It’s a very limited functionality that still requires constant driver monitoring.”

In a conference call Wednesday, Musk told industry analysts that the company is slowly and carefully starting to self-drive “because the world is a complex and chaotic place.” There are plans to add more drivers this weekend and hopes to have a wider version by the end of the year. He was referring to a million vehicles giving “feedback” on situations that are not foreseeable.

The company did not identify the drivers or where they are located. Messages were left on Thursday to receive comment from Tesla.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, which regulates automakers, says it will closely monitor the Teslas “and will not hesitate to take action to protect the public from inappropriate safety risks.”

The agency said in a statement that it was informed about the Tesla system, which it believes is an extension of driver assistance software that needs to be monitored by humans.

“No vehicle that is offered for sale today can drive itself,” says the statement.

On your websiteTesla advertises its full self-driving capability in large letters. In smaller font it warns: “The currently activated functions require active driver monitoring and do not make the vehicle autonomous. Activation and use of these functions depends on achieving reliability that goes well beyond human drivers. This shows billions of miles of experience as well as regulatory approval that may take longer in some countries. “

Even before Tesla used the term “fully self-driving”, it called its driver assistance system “Autopilot”. Many drivers relied too much on it and checked out, resulting in at least three deaths in the US. The National Transportation Safety Board accused Tesla of these fatal accidents where drivers fail to watch out and fail to restrict where autopilot can be used.

Board members who have no regulatory powers are frustrated that Tesla and NHTSA safety recommendations have been ignored.

Bryant Walker Smith, a University of South Carolina law professor who studies autonomous vehicles, said it was bad enough that Tesla used the term “autopilot” to describe its system, but worse, calling it “fully self-driving” to lift.

“That leaves the domain of being misled and irresponsible for what could be described as fraudulent,” said Walker Smith.

The Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) has developed five levels to describe the functions of autonomous vehicles. In levels zero to two, people drive cars and monitor some of the automated functions. The vehicles drive in levels three to five, with level five describing a vehicle that is driven under all traffic and weather conditions.

The term “fully self-driving” means that there is no driver other than the vehicle itself, which indicates that it would be appropriate not to put anyone in the vehicle, Walker Smith said.

Musk also said Wednesday that Tesla will focus on setting up a robotaxi system that allows one person to manage a fleet of 10 self-driving cars in a hail system.

“It wouldn’t be very difficult, but we’re just going to focus on having an autonomous network that includes elements from Uber, Lyft and Airbnb,” he said.

Tesla is among 60 companies licensed to operate autonomous vehicles with human backup drivers in California, the No. 1 state for Tesla sales. Companies are required to submit reports to regulators documenting when the robotic system encounters an issue that requires the driver to take control. This mandate could create red tape for owners of Tesla vehicles.

Before Tesla can use fully self-driving vehicles on California’s roads, it must obtain further approval from state regulators. Only five companies, including Google spin-off Waymo and General Motors’ cruise subsidiary, have received these approvals.

The California Department of Motor Vehicles didn’t immediately respond to questions about Tesla’s latest plans for robotic cars.

The NHTSA, which has shied away from introducing regulations for fear of stifling safety innovations, says every state holds drivers responsible for the safe operation of their vehicles.

Walker Smith argues that the agency is placing too much responsibility on Tesla drivers when it comes to asking what automakers will do to keep vehicles safe. At the same time, testing the system with vehicle drivers could be beneficial and accelerate the introduction of autonomous vehicles.

On Thursday afternoon, Musk was clearly trying to sell the full self-driving software. He wrote on Twitter that the price for “FSD Beta” will rise by $ 2,000 on Monday.

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