Rumors of crashes and rumors of deaths blamed on Tesla’s AutoPilot feature abound right now. There’s also news of someone claiming AutoPilot saved their life, so what are you to believe? The fact is there are conflicting reports about a sought after feature that is unapologetically still in Beta (AutoSteer). So here’s an opinion and some advice for Tesla. Make the feature free… at least until the dust settles and the feature is no longer Beta.
Since I took receipt of my Model S 90D at the end of June there has been a steady flow of questions raised on the robustness of Tesla’s most famous feature. I was excited to try out the feature as soon as I received my vehicle but the AutoPilot suite of features were neither turned on at delivery, or reviewed by the delivery expert. Not until several days later did the option to begin my trial activate.
So here I am, several days after delivery, and now my car will apperantly drive itself via this AutoPilot suite of features. Exciting. I drive alot, so I got right to testing out the features on one my drives to and from Lake Tahoe. The feature worked very well I would say. As long as the road lines were clear, and there was no construction, the car stayed in its lanes and built my confidence in it. However, I knew better than to give it too much confidence. My hands stayed close to the steering wheel and ready to take over in a moments notice. The minute anomolies in the road existed (bad paint on the road, irregular cars merging, or construction) AutoPilot began to fail. Mind you it failed gracefully, but it needed my assitance. My conclusion after a month of driving with AutoPilot is that it is a fun, stressfree way to take on traffic and long drives, but one should be extremely dilligent during this time and for the most part, never take their attention off of the driving. This last part is where I think these other drivers have gone wrong. The minute you take your attention off the driving, the strong potential for an accident skyrockets.
My conclusion is the same as many other editors out there, Tesla needs to address the consumer training of this feature, and potentially the naming and marketing around it. It is a Driver’s Assistance feature, but not an AutoPilot that people expect from a name like that.
So Tesla, in fairness that AutoSteer is still Beta, and in fairness that I might die if I truly let my Tesla “auto pilot” me, and the fact that Tesla needs the data from our driving to improve the feature… why not make the feature free until it finally is capable of “auto piloting” my car? You get my driving data, I get the feature for free. Sounds like a fair trade to me.
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