Tesla Autopilot: Elon Musk Reveals a Surprising Detail About His Usage
Elon Musk may have given a little too much away in an interview aired Sunday. The Tesla CEO was giving Lesley Stahl a spin in his Model 3, when he invoked the semi-autonomous Autopilot mode. The feature offers driving in a limited number of circumstances as long as the driver keeps their hands on the wheel ready to take over — a rule Musk seemingly breaks for himself.
In the CBS appearance, Musk can be seen switching on Autopilot, highlighting how the car is driving itself down the highway. But while the Model 3’s car manual tells users “you must keep your hands on the steering wheel at all times” during Autopilot, Musk readily dropped his hands from the wheel to demonstrate how the car was driving itself. Teslas normally include an alert so users keep their hands on the wheel, deactivating when the user applies pressure up or down. The feature became a point of contention in June when users complained the reminders were too sensitive, leading Tesla to tweak them slightly.
Autopilot is not an autonomous driving system, but Tesla plans to use it as the basis for a future autonomous system. The company announced in October 2016 that every car shipping after that date would include the necessary cameras and sensors to support fully autonomous driving by the end of 2017, a date the company missed. Tesla now plans to introduce a new A.I. chip, replacing the current Nvidia Drive PX 2, to offer full autonomy.
The current feature comes under “level two” of the Society of Automotive Engineers’ autonomous levels, which notes that steering and acceleration is fully undertaken by the system, while monitoring and fallback is the responsibility of the human. A level five system, like the one described above, would enable the driver to stop paying attention and enjoy the ride.
With Tesla gearing up to launch software version 10 with the first signs of full autonomy, the truly hands-free future may be almost here. For now, though, it’s probably best to use your hands.
Related video: Tesla Autopilot Summon Feature Sends the Car to the Road