Tesla's Autopilot "Nag" Forces Drivers to Keep Their Hands on the Wheel

Eddie Daniels

Tesla recently rolled out the latest version of its Autopilot software June 9. This patch didn’t come with any major changes, but users have taken notice that their cars are frequently reminding them to keep their hands on the wheel whenever the feature has been switched on.

These “nag” reminders released with the 2018.21.9 update after several reports of drivers treating Tesla’s Autopilot as if it were autonomous enough to fully negate the need for drivers to pay attention to the road. To ensure that drivers aren’t catching up on sleep when cruising in their Model 3, the company implemented reoccurring dashboard warnings that remind drivers to be safe. Think of it like a seatbelt reminder system.

Currently, Tesla Autopilot is considered a “level 2 driver assist system,” which will control driving and steering to a certain extent. But this still requires that the driver be alert and ready to take control at all times.

Tesla cars come equipped with pressure sensors in their steering wheels. If the wheel doesn’t detect any hands on it for an extended period of time, a pop-up notification will appear at the bottom of the dashboard that says, “Hold steering wheel.”

Some Tesla-owners have found this latest safety feature annoying enough to stop using the Autopilot feature completely. CEO Elon Musk responded that balancing simplicity and safety has proven to be a challenge.

Late in April a man in Nottingham, England got caught dangerously riding shotgun while his Tesla’s Autopilot was switched on. There have also been a few accidents where the Tesla drivers claimed the car’s autopilot acted wonky, resulting in a crash. It is unclear whether or not these drivers were operating the feature as it is intended.

This nagging feature is a clear strategy to get users to understand that this driving-assisting feature should not be confused with autonomous driving technology. Musk has teased when Tesla’s full self-driving feature will launch, but until then please keep your hands on the wheel.

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