Autopilot is one of the biggest draws of owning a Tesla vehicle, and it seems as we head into the future, autonomous tech is only to grow exponentially. In all honesty, Autopilot is an incredible achievement, but just how safe is it? Standford researchers seem to feel that the feature is a danger to cyclists.
Heather Knight and Dylan Moore, two Standford researchers, took to the car and performed a series of tests to see how accurate Autopilot was. Ms. Knight is an expert in human-robot interfaces with a PhD from the Robotics Institute at Carnegie Mellon University and is doing her post-doctoral research in social robotics.
She recently published a piece called “Tesla Autopilot Review: Bikers Will Die.”
Yikes. That grabs your attention rather quickly, doesn’t it?
Long story short, while Autopilot worked well in most situations while she drove around Southern California, it seems that the technology can’t really “see” cyclists. Combine that with the fact that many drivers simply don’t pay attention while driving (autonomous vehicles or not), and you have a situation that doesn’t really play in favor to cyclists.
“I’d estimate that Autopilot classified ~30% of other cars, and 1% of bicyclists. Not being able to classify objects doesn’t mean the Tesla doesn’t see that something is there, but given the lives at stake, we recommend that people NEVER USE TESLA AUTOPILOT AROUND BICYCLISTS!”
It’s somewhat unnerving, though there have no documented incidents involving a Tesla car and cyclists. Tesla makes it very clear that Autopilot is not fully autonomous and that they should keep their hands on the steering wheel at all times and pay attention to their surroundings.
And there is the biggest problem: even with Tesla’s warnings about the limitations of Autopilot, they can scream at consumers until their heads explode, but people just won’t listen. I have noticed an insane amount of people that look to car safety suggestions and laws, and respond with “Meh.” It’s illegal to text and drive in CA. Yet everyone still does it. I try my best not to, but I’m not perfect.
With Autopilot’s limitations, I just don’t think people will care; they will still go about playing Candy Crush and doing their makeup while Autopiloting along. In that sense, yes; if I were a cyclist, I would be pretty nervous as more autonomous(ish) cars hit the road, especially with the upcoming mass market launch of the Model 3.
All Jeremy Clarkson cyclist jokes aside, that’s a pretty iffy situation.
SOURCE | Fortune