Reports of fatalities apparently involving ‘driverless’ technologies have started to reach the news – for example, see here a recent article from Reuters.
So it was perhaps with some trepidation that I recently accepted a lift from a customer in his Tesla Model S, who then offered to demonstrate ‘autopilot’ on a 70 mph dual carriageway in Swindon.
Whilst I was impressed at the vehicle’s ability to stay within the lines and to either stick to 70 mph or, if slower, match the car in front (maintaining a constant distance of seven car lengths), what struck me most of all is how far this supposed ‘driverless’ technology is from the idea of the fully autonomous vehicle. After all, one could describe ‘autopilot’ as simply cruise control with bells and whistles.
Indeed, I was shown how the Tesla would insist on coming to a complete stop if the driver dared to take his hands off the wheel – so we are perhaps not at the stage where we catch up on sleep just yet.
The path to fully autonomous vehicles will be incremental: feet off, hands off, eyes off, brain off. My experience in the Tesla Model S demonstrates that we are still very much only at the ‘feet off’ stage.
Daniel West, associate