Tesla’s semi-autonomous Autopilot system has been impressing everyone from consumers to journalists, and even other industry experts and executives. Even us! But now a Volvo engineer has called Tesla’s system out, claiming it’s a dangerous “wannabe” autonomous technology.
Trent Victor, senior technical leader of crash avoidance for Volvo, had quite a few choice words to say about Tesla’s Autopilot system in a recent interview with The Verge, claiming the electric automaker was touting what is essentially a rudimentary semi-autonomous technology as being far more capable than it actually is.
Victor fears that Autopilot “gives you the impression that it’s doing more than it is.” He went on to call Tesla’s system an “unsupervised wannabe.”
From his interview with The Verge:
“It gives you the impression that it’s doing more than it is,” says Trent Victor, senior technical leader of crash avoidance at Volvo, in an interview with The Verge. “[Tesla’s Autopilot] is more of an unsupervised wannabe.”
[...] Volvo’s Drive Me autonomous car, which will launch in a public pilot next year, is a Level 4 autonomous car — this means not only will it drive itself down the road, but it is capable of handling any situation that it comes across without any human intervention. As a result, the human doesn’t need to be involved in the driving at all. If something goes wrong, the car can safely stop itself at the side of the road.
“In our concept, if you don’t take over, if you have fallen asleep or are watching a film, then we will take responsibility still,” says Victor. “We won’t just turn [autonomous mode] off. We take responsibility and we’ll be stopping the vehicle if you don’t take over.”
See, Volvo is currently hard at work on what it claims to be a Level 4 autonomous car, whereas Tesla’s Autopilot is considered a Level 3. The distinction is that a Level 3 autonomous system still relinquishes the controls back to the driver in the event of extreme conditions the computer can no longer manage, which Victor (and Volvo) finds extremely dangerous. A Level 4 car doesn’t require the “driver” to be in control at any time.
Volvo’s philosophy towards its development of autonomous technology mirrors the automaker’s dedication to safety. Having already devoted itself to taking full liability in the future should any of its autonomous cars get into a collision, Volvo wants to ensure the technology is a safe as possible when it goes on sale—meaning no driver inputs required.
For now Tesla’s Autopilot system is widely considered to be the most advanced technology on the market, though Volvo’s argument that its inability to handle complicated driving conditions and rely on a driver that may be distracted due to a false impression of supervision deserves credence.
We’ll just have to wait and see if Volvo can put its money, and liability, where its mouth is.