Elon Musk's partially self-driving car Tesla is getting a new feature after being road-tested on public roads. The system has been equipped with a new traffic light and sign reading feature that will automatically detect and decide whether to keep going or slow down depending on what it observes.
The driver of the car will be notified of the process, and manual input is needed to keep the vehicle going forwards. The gear selector must be pushed down, and the accelerator pedal pressed; this lets the system know that you have monitored the situation, and it is safe to keep driving.
The brand-new road helper system
The addition is part of Musk's promise of providing fully-automated cars by the end of this year. The company, however, did not present any other information or detail regarding the system. A website called Electrek.co, however, reported that Tesla sent over the new feature to its bigger fleet as part of a new software update they will equip to thousands of other vehicles.
The availability of the system to the rest of the world, however, will come until a later announcement by Tesla.
The US government's road safety agency, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration NHTSA), stated they would be closely monitoring the status and performance of the newly added feature and saying drivers will be liable and responsible for any emergencies and to be ready should enforcement agencies come knocking down their doors.
The executive director of the Center for Auto Safety, Jason Levine, said the feature is only a way for Tesla to advertise and be able to sell cars, though he doubts it would work. He said there's no other way to find out other than seeing the effects first-hand.
Whenever one of their cars gets into a crash, Tesla is quick to point out that drivers should be aware of the situation and should respond accordingly if or whenever the system may fail or not behave as it was designed to.
Levine said that drivers of Tesla cars tend to over-rely on the autopilot system and forgets and completely neglect the duration that they're inside the vehicle.
Robotics and Human Factors Professor at Duke University, Missy Cummings, is worried a failure of the new feature will cause a car to completely ignore a stoplight and cause the driver to head into crossing traffic.
The professor also said that Tesla's real aim is to test their systems and mechanic through their customers publicly and that this new addition may fail in a way that it stops for a green light, potentially causing even more, rear-end collisions.
An ironic accident looming?
The National Transport Safety Board (NTSB) has worked with three fatal crashes where the autopilot system of the Tesla was partly to blame. The agency has also shared its frustrations with the NHTSA for playing down the accidents and not following the board's recommendations.
Tesla responded by saying their cars which have the autopilot systems are twice as safe as regular cars without the feature.