Two things are surprising about Elon Musks’ announcement during Tesla’s earnings call today: (1) that Tesla had not yet implemented any restrictions on the types of roads where Autopilot can be activated; and (2) that there haven’t yet been any tragic accidents, despite this alarmingly near head-on collision; this charming woman’s Autopilot demo while applying makeup; and getting a speeding ticket while driving totally hands-free, never mind its indisputable victory in avoiding this harrowing near catastrophic T-bone collision.
But now, thanks to a bevy of “fairly crazy” videos, Elon Musk says it’s time to implement some hard and fast restrictions at last. Because humans tend to do silly things with new technology.
During this morning’s earnings call, Musk announced Tesla would soon roll out restrictions on Autopilot’s functionality, presumably to save us from our own curious selves. After all, what would you do the moment you got into an Autopilot-enabled Tesla? Naturally, you’d push it to its limits to see just what it could do too.
Thing is though, this isn’t advised, and Tesla has strongly admonished again doing so. Apparently, however, the incessant beeping every ten seconds should you remove your hands from the steering wheel hasn’t been enough to deter self-experimentation, even on mountain roads, and no hardware of software has been implemented to disallow such experimentation.
I do want to emphasize, we discouraged – there’s been some fairly crazy videos on YouTube, we are – this is not good. And we will be putting some additional constraints on when Autopilot can be activated to minimize the possibility of people doing crazy things with it.
What form these restrictions will take is anyone’s guess, but it’s likely to be some sort of road-based geofencing, for instance limiting Autopilot use only to freeways (and perhaps large boulevards) while locking it out entirely on surface streets and, obviously, twisty ribbons of asphalt spaghetti carving up canyons.
Presumably though, such restrictions will not in fact limit the passive autonomous safety features like, for instance, emergency braking and lane-change prevention should an undesired vehicle try to enter your precious bubble of space and time.