Monday, November 16, 2015

Autopilot fails.

Ok yes I know Tesla's autopilot is only supposed to be used on open roads, but when they performed an over-the-air update to 40,000 of their Model S owners six weeks ago, what did Tesla think was going to happen?
Well - this for a start:

And this

I'm counting the days until someone autopilots themselves into a wreck and the class action suit begins. I applaud Tesla for trying this, but it's too early - the software/hardware isn't mature enough and videos like these show what happens when you put buggy software in the hands of average consumers. It's no good printing disclaimers telling the owners the system only works in certain places - people don't read instructions.
Case in point: how do you program a drone car for politeness? Everyone is hailing this video as proof of why drone cars are 'amazing':

You know what I see there? I see a line of traffic to the right that is backed up, and a polite driver has left room for the crossing driver to turn. I see a Tesla that is completely unaware of this simple act and continues at 45mph towards a line of slow-moving traffic ahead. (why isn't it slowing down already?). The result is that the Tesla nearly causes an accident, and only then recovers the situation. Sure, you can argue that the turning car should have waited (he should), but had a human been driving, they'd have seen the situation and (hopefully - if there's any politeness left in the world) slowed down to give the turning car room to pass in front. After all - the traffic ahead is backed up - the driver of this car isn't going anywhere.
Elon Musk finally admitted that his autopilot roll-out has been problematic in an earnings call last week (his understatement response to videos similar to those above was 'this is not good'). He's now suggested that Tesla will be adding some constraints to the system to try to minimise the problems.
That could be hard to do - how far do you constrain such a system? Right back down to basic adaptive cruise control similar to the systems that are factory-installed in most high-end cars now?
One thing's for sure - now Musk has admitted to the problems, something will change. Exactly what that something is, is yet to be seen.