Want to know an interesting factwich about Tesla’s self-driving Autopilot system? Here it is: it’s not really a self-driving system! It’s a start, sure, but it’s a Level 2 autonomous system, which means a moist, fuzzy human being has to be ready to take over at a moment’s notice if the system fails to perform like it should, which happens. Also a fun fact: a sleeping person cannot be expected to take immediate control. That’s why this video is kind of alarming.
This is the video, shot around June 4th near Fremont, California, the home to Tesla’s factory:
While we can’t say for absolute certain what the person in the driver’s seat is doing, we can definitely see that whatever it is, it doesn’t involve looking out the windshield, holding the steering wheel, keeping a head upright, or doing any of the sorts of actions one would associate with driving, or at least with tending to a car doing some of the driving tasks.
We’re also not certain the car is on Autopilot, though it is maintaining its speed and position in its lane remarkably well.
The fact that the car is an official Tesla Mobile Service vehicle, and the person inside is (presumably) a Tesla employee just makes this more troubling.
Tesla has already come under fire for allegedly misrepresenting what Autopilot is capable of, with the implication that it’s being presented as a far more capable system than it actually is. Tesla insists that its owners understand the limitations of the system and the need to remain alert and ready, though third-party products designed to defeat safety systems suggest otherwise, and this video suggests that at least some Tesla employees perhaps overestimate the system as well.
Level 2 systems like Autopilot need alert humans in the driver’s seat. That’s just a fact. If they don’t have them, accidents can happen. And, yes, I know humans get in accidents, too. Humans also avoid accidents.
We reached out to Tesla, who simply responded with “We take safety very seriously and are investigating this incident.”