How Tesla can sell “complete self-driving” software that doesn’t actually drive itself

However, according to autonomous vehicle experts and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, which regulates cars, there are no self-driving cars for sale today. Tesla’s “complete self-drive” is more like upgraded cruise control, they say.

Videos posted on the Internet by people who have If the function is already activated, they show that it may stop at a traffic light and turn smoothly at intersections, but also head towards pedestrians or the moon for a traffic light.

Tesla says that a The human driver must be alert and ready at all times to take the lead and the company allows only those people he believes are the safest drivers to access the system for the first time.

Despite these limitations, Tesla is free to describe its technology as “completely self-driving”. Tesla owners who download the “full self-drive” beta must tick a box to certify that it is their responsibility to remain vigilant with their hands on the wheel and be ready to take action at any time. “Complete self-driving” does not make your car autonomous, they say.

A person who buys a Tesla vehicle from their website sees the technology described in big, bold letters as “completely self-driving,” but the fine print below says the technology is driver assistance technology. Driver assistance technologies should help people to drive more safely, with functions such as front collision warning, blind spot warning and lane departure warning systems.

“The problem is, Tesla has a foot on either side,” said Bryan Reimer, a scientist at MIT AGELab whose research has examined driver awareness with Tesla’s features.

The US government has no performance standards for automated driver assistance technologies, said Reimer. Tesla, or any automaker, can essentially do what it wants when it comes to these technologies.

“We are at the mercy of automakers to introduce secure systems. We need drivers to want to be risk averse, ”Cathy Chase, president of the Advocates for Auto and Highway Safety, told CNN Business. “The combination of these two makes a perfect storm for future disasters.”

Tesla did not respond to requests for comment and generally does not interact with the professional news media.

There are signs that the NHTSA is moving towards regulating driver assistance technologies, but how quickly this could happen remains to be seen. A rulemaking process can take years to complete, and sometimes an administration can stop a process that a previous administration started. The NHTSA’s agenda earlier this year called for a rule setting performance standards for automatic emergency braking, as well as specifying a test to see if automakers were complying.
The NHTSA opened an investigation this summer into Tesla’s rear ambulances while they were using the autopilot. Chase said she was concerned that Tesla technology could play a role in other types of accidents that we are not yet aware of.
Autonomous driving experts have long warned that Tesla’s description of “complete self-driving” and its more rudimentary predecessor, autopilot, could lead motorists to have too much faith in the technology. Tesla drivers have died in high profile autopilot accidents and have been reprimanded by the National Transportation Safety Board.
United States Senators Ed Markey and Richard Blumenthal, Democrats from Connecticut, have called on the Federal Trade Commission to investigate Tesla and take enforcement action because Tesla’s marketing is overrating the capabilities of its vehicles, they say.

“If driver expectations exceed the capabilities of their vehicle, it can result in serious and fatal accidents,” they wrote.

The Federal Trade Commission, tasked with protecting consumers from fraudulent or unfair business practices, declined to tell CNN Business why it didn’t take action against Tesla. The FTC also said it would not comment on whether there is an open investigation, a spokesman said.

Choosing the wrong technology

NHTSA and Congress, which can get the agency to regulate certain things, have missed an opportunity in recent years to focus on driver assistance technologies, according to experts in autonomous driving and law.

Instead of regulating driver assistance, they focused on self-driving vehicles, the types of cars that wouldn’t need steering wheels or pedals. The US House of Representatives passed a law on self-driving cars in 2017. The NHTSA has published several versions of the guidelines for fully autonomous vehicles.

“It jumps many, many steps ahead while we’re not dealing with what might be saving lives,” Chase said.

The decision to focus on the revolutionary technology followed years of hype from self-driving companies. Some of the biggest names in the industry said the technology was only years away. But self-driving software has proven incredibly difficult and companies have failed to make predictions. Only Waymo offers a self-driving robotic taxi service in a limited part of the greater Phoenix area. Waymo’s vehicles require someone to drive them on rainy days.

Bryant Walker Smith, a professor in the University of South Carolina law school, said European regulators are way ahead of the United States in regulating driver assistance technologies. Smith said technologies like pedestrian detection and automatic braking make sense mandatory for new cars and there should be performance standards for them.

“There is low hanging fruit,” said Smith. “We could save lives much sooner than we have self-driving cars.”

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