Tech Latest - - by Niall De'Ath

The safety of Tesla’s autopilot system is under scrutiny

The safety of Tesla’s autopilot system is under scrutiny Image: Tesla

Tesla makes damn fine cars, but according to former business partner MobilEye the upcoming autopilot system could be dangerous after the car developer apparently cut a few corners.

In a huge, and very public, row between Tesla and MobilEye, a number of  serious allegations have been thrown back and fourth as the two major businesses act like a bunch of very wealthy children in flashy suits.

Amnon Shashua, an executive at MobilEye, argued that the autopilot system has been pushed beyond safe limits. The software that keeps the car on the road and not engulfed in flames has been accused of being nothing more than a basic driver assistance tool, and cannot be trusted to take over the complex tasks that is expected of it. To illustrate the concept, imagine asking your iPhone to perform a triple bypass while playing a saxophone. The results, while hilarious to behold, could end up toe-tappingly tragic.

The two ex-partners split up after a fatal crash, which killed 23 year old Gao Yaning, was blamed on a faulty autopilot from Tesla. A lawsuit is underway, which argues that the software was not able to quickly respond to dangerous terrain.

“The autopilot programme’s slow response failed to accurately gauge the road conditions ahead and provide instructions,”

Tesla has disputed the claim, explaining that there was no way to check if the self driving software was engaged at the time of the crash due to the extent of the damage. However, this defence is suspect to say the least, as data is regularly uploaded to Tesla‘s servers.

Tesla has responded to the accusations, arguing that the autopilot system is intended to be used as assistance only, and not to replace drivers.

“At no time has Tesla ever said or implied that Autopilot makes a car autonomous or ‘self-driving’ any more than autopilot on a plane, after which it is named, makes a plane self-flying,”

They have also fired a few shots back at MobilEye, who Tesla claims pulled support and demanded greater payment after they discovered Tesla was creating their own in-house autopilot software. A spokeswoman for the company had this to say.

“After learning that Tesla would be deploying this product, MobilEye attempted to force Tesla to discontinue this development, pay them more, and use their products in future hardware,”

In response to the accusations, Tesla CEO Elon Musk announced a number of new safety regulations, one of which allows the autopilot software to remind drivers to keep their hands on the wheel at all times. If they fail to comply, the system will shut itself off, and possibly fill them with excessive amounts of lead in an OCP boardroom.

The main thing to take away here? Don’t expect autopilot software to run you around like your own personal robo-chauffeur, because you just can’t trust them. Yet.

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