According to a recent tweet by the founder and CEO of the EV giant Tesla, Tesla’s Autopilot has been optimised mainly for safety up till now and that the Version 9 of Tesla’s operating system will include full self-driving features in the upgraded Autopilot. The CEO of Tesla made a promise to Tesla owners two years ago that the company will provide full self-driving functionality to Tesla’s fleet of cars by 2019. If version 9 does release in August, Elon Musk will not only have fulfilled this promise to Tesla owners, but he will also have proved that the company is capable of coming true to its promises.
Elon Musk said on his twitter that all the necessary hardware required for this “full self-driving” functionality will be shipped along with all the cars in the fleet. Tesla owners who are interested in getting this new feature will have to pay only $3,000 to get this upgrade if they have already paid $5,000 for the Enhanced Autopilot feature in their car.
While it’s all stars and twinkles from far away, we must first understand what does the company means when it says full self-driving? Will it be full self-driving like “go to your backseat and have a nap”, or will it be more towards the “Autopilot is active but keep your eyes peeled on the road because the software can make a mistake any minute” kind?
Tesla admittedly has very smart practices that give the company an edge over its competitors. The company releases beta solutions to its customers that focus mainly on safety but do provide some extra features that other automakers aren’t anywhere near to providing their customers. However, this practice also puts Tesla at the risk because no matter how advanced they are, they are still betas. There is a reason why a software product is labelled “beta” before it is labelled “stable release”.
Take for instance the recent reports of several car accidents that involve Tesla’s vehicles with Autopilot active on them. Reportedly three of these several accidents have ended in fatalities. A preliminary report on one of these fatal incidents concluded that the accident was caused by a navigational error made by the car’s autopilot feature. Is it safe to launch such a powerful system without testing it extensively?