The word “autopilot” conjures up an image of a pilot flipping a switch and leaning back to relax as the plane cruises without human interaction. However, vehicles that have the Autopilot feature do not work that way.
According to USA Today, although Autopilot is the name of the system, the vehicles are far less than autonomous, and drivers may be safer if they think of the features as sophisticated cruise control. Critics believe the vehicle’s features give drivers a false sense of security that can lead to a crash.
Tesla and other automakers truly have made the roads safer with emergency automatic braking, cruise control, lane assist, cameras and sensors and other such features. Critics, watchdogs and enthusiasts all agree that as more of these vehicles take to the streets, the number of accidents will likely drop. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has endorsed autonomous vehicle development.
A recent fatal accident involving a vehicle with Autopilot has critics claiming the technology just is not ready for the public yet, despite the fact that the cause of the crash is still unclear. These vehicles log data, and early reports claim the driver had not engaged the Autopilot and other conditions about the trip confirm this.
Investigators believe the driver may not have been actively driving, regardless of whether he or she turned on the assistive technology.
With assistive technology as a selling point, many people disregard manufacturer warnings about safety. For example, the vehicles include a feature that monitors whether a driver’s hands are on the wheel and sends alerts if someone engages in manual distraction while driving. However, drivers soon began using an aftermarket device to bypass that function and allow the driver to go hands-free.
The NHTSA has banned this device, but its development and use by the public demonstrate how negligent drivers may turn safety features into deadly technology.