Elon Musk admits people cannot be trusted with self-driving vehicles

Elon Musk announced that he will be making adjustments to Tesla’s autopilot to thwart drivers from “doing crazy things.” The Tesla CEO stated that additional constraints will be added, after a YouTube video revealed a driver sitting in the backseat of a Tesla Model S as the autopilot cruised along a highway at 50 mph.

No one is sure who took the video. Other YouTube videos reveal drivers not following safety protocol, such as taking their hands off the wheel and allowing the vehicle to veer into the opposite lane.

“There’s been some fairly crazy videos on YouTube,” Musk told investors. “This is not good.”

Unknown constrains to be added to vehicles

Musk didn’t specify what sort of additional constraints will be placed on the self-driving vehicles, though experts have suggested putting sensors on the steering wheel to ensure drivers keep both hands there at all times. Musk previously warned that the autopilot functionality was still in its test mode, and that driving without using one’s hands was strongly discouraged.

“We’re being especially cautious at this stage, so we’re advising drivers to keep their hands on the wheel just in case,” Musk told sources. “Over time there will not be a need to have your hands on the wheel.”

Reporters who took the Model S sedan out for a ride noticed a newly placed light on the dash board that alerted them to keep their hands on the steering wheel whenever they tried to take them off. In more dangerous conditions, an auto alert will warn the driver of impending danger. If the auto alert is ignored, the vehicle will come to a complete stop.

“We’re very clearly saying this is not a case of abdicating responsibility,” Musk said. “That will come at some point in the future but…this is still early days.”

Instructions to owners say: “Autosteer is a hands-on feature. You must keep your hands on the steering wheel at all times.”

Auto alerts and precautionary measures haven’t necessarily prevented drivers from abusing the system. Just last month, a YouTube video was posted showing a driver ignoring the system’s warnings.

“I admit I started to ignore the warning to keep my hands on the wheel so that I could record the moment to share with friends,” YouTube user RockStarTree wrote. “That’s when all hell broke loose.”

“My car was tracking the car in front of me to successfully steer, but I was going slower and that car eventually drifted far ahead of me. Shortly after that, another car was coming in my car’s direction from the opposite side of the road,” RockStarTree added.

Another video revealed by CNET showed a vehicle veering off the side of the road. The driver was able to take control of the car before it hit a curb.

A long road ahead for self-driving cars

The autopilot includes four main features:

  1. The Autosteer keeps the car in the current lane and manages the vehicle’s speed.
  2. The Auto Lane Change activates a left or right turn signal before the car switches lanes.
  3. The Automatic Emergency Steering and Side Collision Warning warns the driver of nearby objects, like cars, that are too close to the vehicle.
  4. And the The Autopark guide enables the car to park by controlling its speed and steering wheel.

Musk states that people should be able to drive to work without once having to touch the steering wheel within three years, though regulatory approval may take longer than that. Regulators need proof that demonstrates these cars are safe.

The firm is able to circumvent various regulations, since the legality of self-driving cars in most states remains unclear. Nevertheless, with more videos of drivers abusing the system springing forth on YouTube, self-driving cars may not see the road for quite some time.



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