Tesla has received criticism for making claims of fully autonomous driving without actually offering the same. [Representative image]
The luxury of a fully-self-driving Tesla appears to be just a quick download away. Or so it would seem. According to the brand’s website, users who click on the “request” button that pops-up on their dashboard screen will have to undergo a test where Tesla will determine the driver’s “safety score” using five criteria to gauge just how likely the driver is to be involved in a future collision.
So, just how does this test work? The criteria primarily include instances of forward collision warnings given out by your Tesla per 1600 km along with instances of hard braking, aggressive turning and unsafe following, all of which is being logged by your Tesla, making this the world’s most discerning car.
The data logged will also look out for instances where the autopilot system was forced to disengage, which only happens when the car has deemed overly reliant on the autonomous software, to the extent that you are inattentive and no longer prepared to manually intervene.
Tesla does this to avoid liability, since its “Fully Autonomous” driving system has always come with the little caveat of not being fully autonomous. In order to receive their individual safety scores, owners must ensure that the Tesla is connected to wi-fi and is running the latest software update.
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Tesla has clarified that the Safety Score will not be impacted by any mishaps that occur while the autopilot is engaged. It is only upon forced disengagement, that forward collision warnings, hard braking etc, will be factored-in. While Tesla has not specified what the passing score is, the test is scored out of 100, and does allow users to improve their safety score and try again. According to the website’s support page, any driving manoeuvre done aggressively enough to not allow the car to give you any audio or visual warning will be logged and will affect your safety score.
Is the new Beta version fully autonomous?
No. Tesla has made it clear that the driver must remain in the driver’s seat and ready to intervene and keep control of the vehicle at all times. However the new software allows drivers to use Tesla’s “autosteer on city streets” feature which allows drivers to navigate past city traffic within speed limits of course, without actually having to move the steering wheel. It remains unclear how Tesla would gauge their involvement or constant intervention, at this point, but it’s safe to assume that drivers would still have to physically place their hands on the steering wheel from time to time to confirm their presence and involvement.
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In addition to this, the system will also navigate on Autopilot, automatically engaging the turn signal and taking the correct exit on or off the highway. The system also identifies stop signals and traffic lights and automatically slows your car to a stop. It does so by using 8 external cameras and 12 ultrasonic sensors.
Why has Tesla chosen to launch the software now?
The Beta software has been launched in light of the heavy criticism Tesla has received by making claims of fully autonomous driving without actually offering the same. With Tesla’s “Full Self-Driving” system being dubbed a misnomer by many, the brand felt compelled to offer a higher degree of autonomous mobility without a fully self-driven car.
The concept of a fully self-driven car has come under heavy criticism in the United States with several experts, including the National Transportation Safety Board advocating against it. Several other players including Waymo, Alphabet and Apple have scaled back on the self-driving projects for similar reasons as the very idea of a self-driving car remains risk and liability prone, regardless of the safety measures and alleged sophistication of the system.